‘Dreamboy’: a surreal tale that will transport you somewhere else
Podcasts: Night Vale’s new fiction podcast nicely juxtaposes the normal with the strange
Songwriter and performer Dane Terry, narrator of Night Vale’s new podcast series ‘Dreamboy’. Photograph: Ben Sklar/New York Times
As a listener, what I want the most out of a fiction podcast is to be transported somewhere else. I want the listening experience to make me feel like I’m outside of my own reality a little bit: the same kind of surrender that happens in the cinema, or in front of a really great television show. The form has immense potential, and so seldom do fiction podcasts achieve that whole escape. Dreamboy, however, from moment one, feels like listening in to an entire different world. The only episode available is the first, and from the first few minutes it is clear that this project is huge – as well as deeply intimate.
I am hesitant to spoil any of the plot because of the sheer joy I experienced as the world effortlessly built itself in the pilot. However, I will say that Dane, the protagonist and narrator, is softly spoken and incredibly easy to fall through the story with. The story is surreal and handles internal monologue and the relationship we have with the strange, as well as the mundanity of scrolling dating apps in the park and working mind-numbing jobs.
The music is, frankly, like no score I’ve ever heard on a podcast. It’s moody and dramatic and huge
This first episode is about weird occurrences, suspicion, the abiding feeling that something is about to go wrong. That’s a good pilot. No exposition, just the slow build of unease. This easy juxtaposition of the normal and the un-normal is what makes Dreamboy so good. Sometimes, excellent writing in fiction podcasts fall prey to their own scope and betray their form: they listen more like television pilots or movie scripts read at a table. Podcasts like this can be written well but disrespectful of their form. Dreamboy, however, is literary and beautiful and absolutely a podcast. At that, a powerful example of how to tell a suspenseful story in this form.
The music is, frankly, like no score I’ve ever heard on a podcast. It’s moody and dramatic and huge – and I’m slightly bereft that I can’t roll over to Spotify and listen to it all for myself. The soundscape builds out the world and lends real texture to Dane’s dreams, and his day, and the interactions he has as he moves along. I didn’t listen to this on headphones, instead I let the sound of it ring out through my kitchen – in the last minutes of the story of this episode I was stilled by how beautiful it was. I’m dying for the next one.
A note: it is slightly NSFW, so if you’re going to listen to it as I did, aloud, make sure you’re not in a place where mentions of the body and sex might draw suspicious glances. This is a gorgeous listen that has breezed ahead of the rest to one of my tops of the year. Do yourself a favour and listen to it – it will open a door to somewhere slightly different.