A Friendly Letter from the Future
Dear Virginia Cooke,
I’m writing this from the future: from the year of our Lord 2017. I’m not much older than this century, so by the time I write this, your body will be long sown in the earth and watered with tears. I have not been alive in your lifetime.
But you are a writer, ma’am, and in late 1936 or early 1937, you were writing an audio drama that has long since gone off the air. You know it’s hard to write sometimes. It’s hard to write a sweeping story that covers 178 episodes and spans three continents. Even as a professional, it’s hard to find time and harder still to find inspiration. It’s difficult to come up with logical characters, linear plots, good villains. Sometimes it may seem too hard.
I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it.
I know your story is worth it because, eighty years later, your story is worth it to me.
One of the defining moments of my childhood was listening to your audio drama. I remember lying in the dark at ten, eleven, maybe twelve o’ clock at night – long after I was supposed to go to sleep, with the rest of the household asleep and the house silent and dark. If anyone else had been awake, they probably would have been able to hear the voices coming from my headphones, for I’m sure I had it at an unreasonable volume. I traveled to New York, to China, to Africa there.
I recall one scene with the characters alone in the jungles of Africa. There was fire on the beach and crocodiles in the water, and their plane line had been cut; their only way out drifted across the water away from them. Heedless of the danger and of his companion’s fear, one of your characters jumped in and swam after it through the black-as-pitch waters. Bullets ricocheted through the water around him, with crocodiles barely stopped by those bullets. I listened to those tense few moments with a thrill going through my whole body and realizing, ah, yes, this is what heroes look like.
Back in 1936, did you think that there would be a little girl, rigid as a board with excitement and thrill, listening to your stories in 2007?
I can’t imagine that you did.
I’m listening to your stories again this year. In fact, I’m basing a major project off of them. As I listen, as I’m older, I can see some of the flaws I missed back then. The characters aren’t always consistent. The plot doesn’t always follow a logical course of events. The dialogue is sometimes stilted. Your stories are far from perfect, Virginia Cooke, and the format is such that few people would listen to them and enjoy them today. There is no music, minimal sound effects, and the acting sometimes leaves things to be desired.
If it weren’t for your stories, I wouldn’t think of heroes the way I do now. I wouldn’t think of police and criminals the way I do now. I wouldn’t write the way I do now, nor view stories the way I do now. I certainly wouldn’t use some of the phrases I do now. You, with your imperfect story written half a century before I was born, have changed me.
I guess you know by this point that I’m not really writing this to you alone. Even if you did struggle with writer’s block back in the 1930s, I wouldn’t know, nor could I send this back to encourage you. So I say these same things to my writers of today.
In eighty years, do you know where your story will be? Will it be changing the life of another little girl, crouched on her bed at 11:43 with a flashlight illuminating the words of your story, and the words of your story illuminating the world’s darkness?
It’s hard to write a sweeping story. Logical characters. Linear plot. Well-done villain. You know that and I know that. You know what else you know?
It doesn’t have to be perfect, love. You know this, too. It just has to be written, and you never know how far your story will go. Maybe eighty years later, it will still be changing lives.
I, Athelas Hale, write this in July, the year of our Lord 2017. Thank you, Virginia Cooke, for your stories.
“Courage. Honor. Silence.”