I’ve recently had to travel for some of those grown up reasons you might know of when you’re a child, but that end eras for adults. Probably a maudlin and overly wordy way to put it, but I suspect, if you’re reading this, you’re old enough to to know what I mean.
Anyway, I rented a car and drove north from here, passing through Alabama, Tennessee, up to the north and east. I passed places I’ve lived, places my parents lived, places I’ve visited, the places where my dad’s extended family is from. I drove on my own, and pressed myself to make the journey as quickly as possible. To keep myself company I pulled up a podcast I’d been meaning to try – Old Gods of Appalachia, a “…a horror-anthology podcast set in the shadows of an Alternate Appalachia, a place where digging too deep into the mines was just the first mistake.”
I started out in the early afternoon, so as I reached northeast Alabama, the day was done. And y’all, I was spooked. What had started out as a necessary quest to find my future had turned into a look into my past. All the places I was passing, all the touchstones … couple that with the shroud of darkness, mountains like behemoths, rising as voids along the horizon, trees grown thick about me … well, let’s just say I was transported, beyond just the physical. My trip began to feel less practical and matter of fact and more a move between worlds.
Old Gods was started right before the Pandemic. Their first season is polished and obviously thought out ahead, at least at the beginning. Part the way through that first season, the our real life Great Sickness hits – you hear about it in the intros and outros. Obviously Covid affected their plans, but it also brought a new layer of dark awareness to their stories. Maybe it’s a terrible thing to say, but the tragedy and sadness of 2020 brought a focus to their storytelling, added more grain and grit to the tales they were spinning.
I drove a long way with the characters of their tales, passing through the regions they were talking about, or at least where they might be if I was through the veil and driving through their dark vision of the Appalachian past. Their stories kept me company, kept me transfixed as I navigated.
I caught up with their tales just after I reached my destination, in the town my parents each last lived. That seemed right, somehow. I’m caught up now, waiting for their next episodes – we’re on part three of season two, and “family,” I can’t wait to see where they go next.
On the long road back I listened to a now finished podcast I’d also been meaning to catch up with – Alice Isn’t Dead. Summer before last, before the world went Topsy-Turvy, I read the Alice Isn’t Dead novel – a complete reimagining of the podcast by the same author, Joseph Fink. Fink is one of the creators of the Welcome to Nightvale podcast – wildly popular amongst Certain People I Might Consider Kindred, and yet another thing I’ve yet to dive into. Life’s hard, y’all.
The mood of Alice is completely different, although it also deals with the underbelly of the universe, and the various dark things that grow there. I won’t spoil anything, but the villains of the story, while similar in tone to the Old Gods baddies, have a very, very different origin. (All I’m going to say on the matter. Interested – stream the podcast! ^_^)
Both podcasts have good sound production. Old Gods is subtler, sneaking up on you, scaring the pants off of you, contextually. Suddenly that monster of the woods is in the room with you, sharing its mood, and family, it’s not feeling forgiving. The sound in Alice is a lot more heavy handed. The main character is Keisha, who’s taken up truck driving cross country while searching for her not-dead spouse. You follow her as she recounts her journey across trucker radio airwaves, and sometimes her world encroaches on your own. More than once I jumped when driving, startled by the sound of a blaring horn or other car related noise. Probably not the best choice for a solitary driver, but I was motivated, y’all.
Alice spans 53 episodes, covering just enough time for me to drive all the way back to my home from where I was. 53 episodes, come to find out, will get you about 2000 miles down the road. I chose it in keeping with my journey – while markedly different than Old Gods – it’s more contemporary, less gothic, more cynical – it had some similar elements of “being afloat” and “being different”. And it was basically one big road trip, which suited me just fine, as well.
Comparing the two IPs is not really an easy thing to do. Old Gods brought me home, in a lot of ways, sharing stories of family, fear, the dark unknown. It’s centered in a part of the world my ancestors all called home, and its vernacular is familiar, easy to access. When you add elements of gothic horror and Lovecraftian mayhem – well, just consider me sold. I’m a lifelong fan now.
I loved the Alice story, although it was a little harder to navigate. The main character is sympathetic – I totally get her anxieties, and to be honest I’ve secretly always wanted to be a long-haul trucker. It’s an interesting tale, if a bit diffuse. The story’s good, but the ending is a bit vague. I loved it, don’t get me wrong, and I understand that Good Stories Leave Questions, but I wish Praxis had been better addressed. It seemed written on the fly, with less constraints on the story universe. More poppy, less focused.
Both podcasts deserve their popularity and adoration, and if you’re interested in a good horror podcast, both would fit the bill. I highly recommend you check them out. They both have awesome merch, as well – check out Old Gods‘ here, and Alice‘s here. Old Gods has a very active Discord server, if you’re looking to find like minds. I’ve just started investigating it, but it seems like a good safe space filled with interesting people.
Ultimately, I’m most grateful to have found Old Gods of Appalachia. It will be good to have their company in the long days ahead. And honestly, y’all, I’m looking at more than just a few.
Be well, friends.