If you’ve been sleeping on Alice Isn’t Dead, we hope you’ve caught up on your rest. Once you dive into this clever, creepy lesbian road trip mystery, you may not be sleeping again for awhile.
This poignant, witty, and deeply unsettling podcast written by Welcome to Nightvale co-creator Joseph Fink—and its novelization has been nominated in the 31st annual Lambda Awards under the Lesbian Mystery category. An homage to the classic American road-trip, this eerie and contemplative podcast follows Keisha, a brave yet anxiety-ridden woman whose wife mysteriously disappears. The obvious assumption is as awful as it is incorrect: Alice died mysteriously while working for her job, a fast-paced corporate position that led to her frequent domestic travel. She wrote lovingly throughout her travels, sending emails from small-town bed-and-breakfasts, describing sunny summer afternoons.
But what if the weather reports say there was no sun that afternoon in the town Alice described? What if there was no bed-and-breakfast in the town she wrote about, a lie Keisha never thought to question? What if Alice isn’t dead?
What if it gets worse than that?
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Our story opens with the distinct tone of nightmare—something familiar left out to rot. Keisha is in a diner, and a man is eating an omelette. Only he’s not really eating the omelette so much as he is devouring it with a violent, mindless need. There’s something wrong with his fingernails. There’s something wrong with his eyes.
Keisha has left her job and life behind to journey into the liminal space of the American highway, a vast and threatening emptiness in which anything could be lurking—whether it’s a sinister truth or something even more frightening than knowledge. Joining trucking company Bay & Creek Shipping, Keisha talks to Alice on her CB radio.
But Alice might not be the only one listening.
The story unfolds with all the logic of a dream: the same town appears endlessly along the same stretch of road, an image repeated into meaninglessness. A factory looms on the edge of an ocean, populated by a single worker who is moving sideways through time. Keisha hears footsteps in the bed of her truck, but no one is there when she stops to check. Things are and then aren’t. Things aren’t and then very much are.
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Alice Isn’t Dead is a wonderful example of LGBT+ media entering the mainstream; although its popularity arose in part because of Joseph Fink’s reputation, the podcast and novel earned attention for their expert storytelling and striking fixation with the uncanny as the story journeys deeper and deeper into America’s messy innards. It’s no mistake that the podcast ran from 2016 – 2018, a time in which America’s political climate was another strange and inhospitable landscape. Fink boldly places a queer love story in the wildest reaches of the United States: where police won’t help, where the threat of violence doesn’t seem entirely supernatural. Although Alice Isn’t Dead will compete against some incredible titles, its wide reach into the mainstream represents a serious accomplishment.
The Lambda Literary Awards, established in 1988, honor works exploring LGBT+ themes across an exciting range of genres. Though the award was initially for gay and lesbian works, its scope expanded to include bisexual and transgender categories as the community became more inclusive. The 31st annual Lambda awards judges have chosen from over 1,000 nominations—so you’d better get to reading! Tickets for the award ceremony, held in NYC, are now available for purchase.
A Selection of 2019 Lambda Award Finalists
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Other high-profile nominees include Elizabeth Acevedo’s National Book Award-winning The Poet X, renowned lesbian poet Eileen Myles’ Evolution, and acclaimed author and reviewer Alexander Chee’s How To Write an Autobiographical Novel. The categories cover an inclusive spectrum of genres and identities: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Mystery, Memoir/Biography, Romance, Anthology, Children’s/Young Adult, Drama, Erotica, Graphic Novels, SF/F/Horror, and LGBTQ Studies.
As of 2019, only the first three categories exist in subcategories Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender; the remainder are generally divided into Lesbian and Gay. Perhaps, with the modern increase in queer content, the award will recognize an even broader selection of sexual and romantic identities.
Check out the full list of Lambda Award nominees in Lesbian Mystery and all other categories!
Featured Image Via Medium.