Seeking Tanis. Runner available.
TANIS is a serial podcast set in the same universe as The Black Tapes and RABBITS. Nic Silver - Alex Reagan's producing partner from Black Tapes - misses the days before the internet robbed our lives of mystery. For all that the information age has given us, that sense of mystery, Nic reflects, is something it may have taken away. Following the apparent suicide of a man named Karl van Sant, who posted a mysterious ad on Craigslist advertising himself as a "Runner," Nic begins searching for Tanis, which may be the last great unsolved mystery of our world. What is Tanis? It may be a place. It may be the Holy Grail. It may be a person, or an entity, or a forest spirit, or the Fountain of Youth. It's been called Xanu and Eld Fen. All that's known is that it seems to move around once every four hundred years or so...and it's currently located in the Pacific Northwest, somewhere in the Puget Sound.
During the course of his investigation, Nic finds himself targeted by multiple conspiracies and cults, allies himself with a hacker called Meerkatnip, and explores various unsolved mysteries that may or may not be related to the larger question:
What is Tanis?
This podcast provides examples of:
- Ambiguously Evil: Cameron Ellis. Nearly everybody warns Nic to be wary of Ellis, and he seems to have plenty of the Corrupt Corporate Executive tropes down. However, he is also one of Nic's best sources of information regarding Tanis, or what Ellis refers to as "the Breach", and, after some initial hostility, is willing to be open with what information he can, even if he only lets it out in cryptic dribs and drabs.
- An Arm and a Leg: At the start of season two, Nic is looking into the mysterious appearance of several missing right feet in Seattle since the late 2000s. Oddly, one foot belongs to a man who has both of his feet.
- Arc Words: "It is waking up".
- Apocalyptic Log: The journal entries that Alex read from. they turn out to be Nic's
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: It seems every author, historical figure and and scientist throughout history, from Aleister Crowley to Nicolas Flamel to Jack Parsons, seems to have been involved with the Tanis mystery at some point.
- Bigger on the Inside: The cabin. When measured in episode two, the exterior south wall is twenty six feet long while the interior south wall is just over thirty-one feet long. The second time its measured, the interior wall is over ninety feet long and a maze like section of hallways appear, all while the exterior stays unchanged.
- Brown Note: Tenebris Occulta, a film from the 70s set in the Pacific Northwest more commonly known as "The Last Movie," which drives its audiences insane and may not actually exist. It becomes the subject of The Last Movie, a limited series spinoff podcast.
- Came Back Wrong: The kids of Saint Raywood. They came back different enough that their parents immediately detected a difference. Most notably, they became more violent. The parent Nic manages to speak to didn't even keep track of them into adulthood.
- Cult: Several. The Cult of Tanis is (obviously) the most prominent, but Crowley's Thelema is also significant in Tanis lore.
- Don't Go in the Woods: The Washington forest where it's suspected Tanis can be found has a pronounced effect on this who go into it or even get too close. Many of the tales told during episodes feature men and women turning homicidal and/or suicidal after exposure to it, ranging from random fur trappers in the nineteenth century to Charles Manson.
- Eldritch Abomination: Later second session episodes lean toward this theory. If Tanis and Eld Fen are one and the same, Tanis may be one. Eld Fen is referred to as "the end of sleep, the end of light," and is specifically an entity of some kind. It's also cited as partial inspiration for the Cthulhu Mythos.
- Eldritch Location: Tanis - maybe. If it is, it's an eldritch location that periodically changes position.
- Everybody Calls Him "Barkeep": Enforced. Inside the area currently occupied by Tanis, names gradually lose meaning. The journal Alex reads from concerns the Witness (Nic Silver), the Novelist (Morgan Miller), the Zealot (Sam Reynolds) and the Runner (Melanie Nedved/Veronika Pilman).
- Fictional Document: Pacifica, a Firefly fanfic that may have something to do with Tanis.
- Gaia's Vengeance: Multiple characters speculate that Tanis is the Earth's "immune system" lashing out at mankind's destruction of the environment.
- Genius Loci: Discussed by name, but it's noted that Tanis shows qualities that are unusual for a genius loci and it may, in fact, not be one at all.
- The Ghost: Haidagurl, aka Veronika Pilman, aka Melanie Nedved.
- Hero of Another Story: Alex Reagan fills the same role here as Nic does in The Black Tapes, providing advice and occasional narration.
- Insistent Terminology: Meerkatnip is an information specialist. Hackers are what she refers to more old-school methods.
- Madness Mantra: From both the cult and the journal entries. There are wondrous things. There are magical things. There are dangerous things. We get what we deserve.
- In season two, we get the significantly more disturbing He's/It's waking up!
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: One of Eld Fenn's other names is the lovely title of King Wurm.
- Numbers Station: Karl van Sant had an entire room of tape recordings of them from different countries, in different languages.
- Orwellian Retcon: Season 1, episode 3 refers to the real-life case of Elisa Lam, who drowned in a hotel's water tower under mysterious circumstances. The podcast presents a fictional conspiracy theory that Lam had been possessed by a future-flung Aleister Crowley. After outcry from the listeners, the episode was re-released with all instances of Lam's name bleeped. However, it's still obvious who's being discussed, what with the infamy of the case and references to Crowley writing about a historical figure named Siela (pointed out as an anagram of "BLEEP") and contacting an alien named Lam (not bleeped).
- Posthumous Character: Several, but Karl van Sant is the most notable. Until he's revealed to be alive that is.
- Precision F-Strike: The unfailingly polite Nic can only exclaim "Holy Shit" when he and Geoff go to confront the Cult of Tanis and find the place completely empty.
- The Reveal: The journal Alex has been reading from since episode 5 belongs to Nic.
- Room Full of Crazy: the late Karl van Sant's basement was something like this, including a String Theory map and thousands of cassette tape recordings of numbers stations.
- Running Gag: The one from The Black Tapes (where no one knows what a podcast is) is shot down early. Instead we have Meerkatnip referring to herself as an information specialist, hanging up on Nic before he can say goodbye on Skype, and Nic asking her to email something she's already emailed.
- Seeker Archetype: Nic, even more so than Alex in Black Tapes. This puts him in serious danger several times.
- Serial Killer: Several of them are implied to be the result of direct contact with Tanis, including Charles Manson and the "Servant Girl Annihilator," who may also have been Jack the Ripper.
- Ship Tease:
- Meerkatnip has remarked more than once that Nic "isn't hard to look at". When she temporarily stays at his place, she assumes a certain remark is flirting, and says he's cute, but she isn't interested.
- Nick himself goes out of his way to inform the shippers in the audience that he and MK...are close friends who care about each other very much.
- Shown Their Work: Most of the incidental mysteries touched on in the podcast, such as the Markovian Parallax Denigrate and the suicide of Lyle Stevik, are real.
- Significant Anagram: Saint Raywood ("Tanis Doorway") and most likely Levity Elks ("Lyle Stevik").
- Tomato Surprise: The Apocalyptic Log detailing a group's search for TANIS that Alex reads from, starting from episode five, turns out to be written by Nic.
- Wacky Wayside Tribe: The Grackles, a commune of hippie scientists studying phenomena in the woods south of Seattle.
- Weirdness Magnet: Tanis turns any area it currently occupies into one. Currently, the Puget Sound area is a magnet for violent crime and unexplained phenomena.
- Wham Episode: Season one's finale, "The Map" becomes this as soon as Nic and his companions reach the forest and the dialogue is an almost word-for-word match for the first Apocalyptic Log entry in episode 5. Even if that detail is missed at the time, a segment with Alex Reagan soon after reveals that Nic has been missing and the Apocalyptic Log she's been narrating from is Nic's journal found during an initial search.
- Whole-Plot Reference:
- Has a lot in common with The Southern Reach Trilogy (Cameron Ellis even refers to the Tanis border as "the Breach"), and to a lesser extent with House of Leaves.
- Tanis' resemblance to the Zones in Roadside Picnic is even mentioned in the plot itself: Nic compares humanity's relation to Tanis as "ants on the side of a freeway" multiple times and Nathaniel Carter has purchased the original Roadside Picnic manuscript.