How did the original Video Palace podcast come to be?
Mike: Nick and I had been talking about doing a scripted fiction podcast for some time when we heard that AMC Networks had decided to fund some podcasts across their networks, including their horror streaming service Shudder. We started talking about creating a podcast that had a big mythology behind it, one that would let us tell stories across many different types of media depending on fan response.
Nick: Next thing we knew, we were pitching the series concept and fleshing out a treatment and production budget. We brought on a team of collaborators and it was released in October 2018. Horror fans really seemed to love it and it was very successful for Shudder so we were thrilled with the reception.
What was the inspiration for Video Palace?
Nick: We’d been talking about original IP ideas for years and we both have an affinity for anthology horror and strange fiction, from EC Comic titles like Tales from the Crypt to 80s TV shows like Amazing Stories. We also listened to a lot of fictional, story-driven podcasts and found the results disappointing. We thought we could do better and wanted to create something we’d like to listen to.
Mike: We especially wanted to avoid trying a radio drama re-hash, as we thought that podcasts are a more intimate format than radio, yet the acting on most fiction podcasts felt like actors sitting around a microphone talking rather than a story that immerses listeners in the action and drama. We wanted the experience of listening to feel less like an audiobook and more like a movie in your mind.
Can you tell us about the differences in occult storytelling between a podcast and a book?
Nick: In both mediums, you want to withhold just enough information and when you do provide answers, they need to spark new questions. The key difference is that there are so many tools you can use for immersion in the podcast: performance, sound design, score, editing that–when done well-really transport the listener and create competing feelings of curiosity and vulnerability. And while it’s great to have all those tools firing on all cylinders, sometimes one or two carries the load. In prose, everything–all the pressure–is on language and one awkward metaphor or wrong note can torpedo the immersion. The mastery of evocative language is a must.
Mike: ☝️ What he said.
Without giving too much away, whose ‘Eyeless Man’ account from the book is your favorite?
Mike: Our original concept for the book was rooted in the idea that while it is an anthology of stories from a variety of contributors, it should feel more like a novel in the way that each story adds to your knowledge of the Eyeless Man mythology at the heart of the book and the podcast. We didn’t know if it would work, but as the stories came in I fell in love with each one because they brought unique perspectives to the overall story.
Nick: I love all of the contributions, but am especially partial to Maynard Wills’ through-line story. I like the idea of a driven seeker tracking down an elusive urban legend. Of course, he doesn’t consider that actually finding what he’s looking for could be the worst thing ever!
Are there any lessons or morals you hope readers take away from the book?
Nick + Mike: Like the podcast, the book is meant to trigger reflection on our behaviors around media, both individually and as a culture. Neither one of us are moralizers–far from it!–but, in this day and age (Qanon, anyone?) being a responsible adult means looking at our relationship to media–especially digital media–in the cold light of day.
In the spirit of spooky season, (outside of Video Palace) what is your favorite haunted tale?
Nick: Probably Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.
Mike: In the spirit of just naming just one, I’ll say Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, which is particularly relevant right now.
Video Palace: In Search of the Eyeless Man is available now in book, ebook, and audio book formats, everywhere here.
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