An Open Letter to the Ghost of Wyllis Cooper

Dear Mr. Cooper,

I suppose it goes without saying that you don’t know me — after all you died thirty years before I was born — but I hope it wouldn’t be too much of a presumption for me to say, that in some small way I feel like I know you. What’s that they say about everything an artist creates being a self-portrait? I guess its possible that’s all a bunch of hooey. I suppose it could be that there was nothing in your soul of the love and longing that seem to permeate your work. But I doubt it.

I’m writing mainly because of the impact your radio show Quiet Please has had on me, as a person and as a writer. No one makes radio shows here in the future. Well, almost no one. Now it’s all about the television. And while that’s not all bad, it still makes me a little sad to think that the art of the audio drama, the art you contributed so much to, has become something of a niche market in modern society. Probably you saw it coming. Your works crackled out of speakers during the last great days of radio. Already television was strangling that great medium and in a decade after your death it would be almost forgotten.

And you. You would be almost forgotten.

Did you know? When you looked into the murky fog of the future did you suspect that your name, the things you had done would grow dim in the fickle memories of the people to come?

When you were crafting such perfect suspense, such brilliant characters and prescient concepts, when you were creating works of beauty and genius, did you suspect that they would fade in favor of the new, the flashy, the vapid, self-important echoes to come? I hope you didn’t. I hope you died with the thought that with all you had done your name would live on for generations.

Really though, you shouldn’t be too downhearted about it. It’s their loss. They’ll never get to experience the masterful way in which you drew your listeners into your show, inviting them to take part in the narrative as if you were sitting there in the living room with them, spinning a fantastic yarn. You didn’t break the fourth wall so much as you enticed your audience to step across it’s shimmering threshold of their own accord.

And there are still those of us who remember. In a sense your shows now have the capacity to reach more people than they ever did in your day. Now there’s something you couldn’t have envisioned, this wonderful oddity called the internet. There are websites devoted to you, fans who have found each other through their mutual love of your show, online archives where the surviving audio from Quiet Please is publicly available. I’d like to think you’d approve of that.

And, if you don’t mind me saying, your obscurity, while it is troubling, is something of an encouragement to me. Hear me out. The thing is, I know you were a great writer. I know the stories you spun on Quiet Please, stories that experimented with their medium, stories that took risks and stretched the bounds of what anyone else was doing at the time, stories that remain fresh and compelling seventy years after they aired, I know that those stories were nothing less than masterpieces.

And if the world at large could forget that, then maybe I shouldn’t be so concerned that I’m still struggling in the depths of obscurity. Not that I’m implying I’ve got a tenth of your skill as a writer, but your writing has inspired me to stretch beyond what I think I’m capable of, and your example has proven to me that its possible to create something great and moving and powerful and still be mostly ignored.

And maybe that’s okay. I don’t know. What I do know is that, if only for a moment, you’ve helped me to hush the demons of doubt and fear. And for that, for everything, I thank you.

Sincerely and respectfully yours,

Albert T. Berg

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