I write audio drama because I find it to be the most plastic and economical mass media available…with radio drama, we make the audience, the listener, into a collaborator and transform their imaginations into our sets and actors. — Thomas E. Fuller
Thomas E. Fuller was a co-founder and the guiding spirit of the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company. He was born on October 8th, 1948, in Jasper, Alabama. He attended the University of Georgia and graduated with his MFA in drama in 1973. He moved to Atlanta and became active in the theater scene there, eventually writing over a dozen stage plays and well more than a hundred audio dramas. He became the first writer admitted as a member by the Science Fiction Writers of America whose credentials were dramatic works rather than stories or novels.
He worked with the Atlanta Children’s Theater, not only writing but also acting in stage versions of fairy tales including “Aladdin” and “Sleeping Beauty.” He also found work as both a writer and an actor with outdoor dramas, writing A Cry of Eagles for the DeKalb County, GA, bicentennial celebration and The Legend of Tom Dula for North Carolina (the latter was about the figure known in folk song as Tom Dooley). He also acted several times in the long-running outdoor drama Unto These Hills in Cherokee, NC. Around this time, he joined the Society for Creative Anachronism and became known as “Thomas Megatherium,” or more familiarly, “Thomas Wordsmith.”
He married Berta Platas, and the couple eventually had four children: Edward, Anthony, John, and Christina. They settled in Duluth, north of Atlanta. In 1978 Thomas collaborated with Doug Kaye and composer Andrew Thomas to write a “monster comedy,” The Kiss of Dracula, which became a popular musical comedy in Atlanta. As follow-ups, the same team wrote a mystery musical, Sherlock Holmes and the Crime of the Century, and then a space-opera musical, Dash Cardigan. Solo stage plays written at this time include the horror western All Hallows’ Moon, the historical fantasy Last Relic of Empire, and An Atlanta Christmas. Most of these have been adapted as audio plays.
Radio personality William Brown and actor/director Richard Stansbury had been working to put together a company intended to produce radio plays, and in 1984 Thomas joined them, becoming the Head Writer for the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company. He immediately grasped the fundamentals of writing in a medium of sound—“the theatre of the mind,” as he always called it—and came to believe it was the most natural medium for drama. With audio drama, after all, a writer needed only evocative words and sound effects to conjure sets, characters, and events that could not be duplicated in a stage play. He also added storytelling to his occupations, working for several years with the annual Tour of Southern Ghosts at Stone Mountain Park, using his resonant, well-trained voice to chill the blood of visitors with spooky tales.
Thomas spent 18 years as Head Writer with ARTC, doubling as director and actor as well. His audio works include adaptations of classic SF, fantasy, and horror works (H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, also a stage play; The Island of Dr. Moreau; H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror, At the Mountains of Madness (with Brad Strickland), and The Shadow Over Innsmouth (with Greg Nicoll). He also rang changes on classics, producing not adaptations but different takes: The Brides of Dracula and The Passion of Frankenstein are examples.
He also created original works for audio: Dr. Geoffrey Stanhope, a series of adventures of a Victorian occult detective; The Lost Gold of the Atlantimengani, a serial about African adventurer Nairobi Jack (in the mold of H. Rider Haggard’s stories); and The Crimson Hawk, a nostalgic 1930s-style audio series similar to The Shadow. He also wrote experimental dramas, including Castles Burning, Chronos Beach, and Can You Hear Me? His serial Lovecraftian adventure The Dancer in the Dark was later adapted as a novel with Brad Strickland as a cowriter.
Fuller and Strickland also collaborated on novels as well as audio scripts. They published over a dozen books about Wishbone, the literature-loving Jack Russell Terrier from public TV; two series for young adults, Mars Year One and Pirate Hunter; a mystery novel, The Ghost Finds a Body; and the first in the Jim Dallas series of mystery thrillers later continued by Strickland.
For his audio work, Thomas won the silver Mark Time Award in 1996 (for The Island of Doctor Moreau); a special Mark Time Award in 1997 for The Brides of Dracula; and the silver Ogle Award in 1998 for All Hallows’ Moon. In 1999 he received the Southern Fandom Award from Dragon Con and in 2002 the Lifetime Achievement Award from ARTC, which has since been named in his honor.
In November of 2002, Thomas was stricken by a heart attack. He did not recover and after a brief hospitalization, he passed away on November 21st of that year at the age of 54. To this day, Thomas Fuller’s influence is deeply felt among the regulars at ARTC. His works continue to be produced and recorded, and his humor, poetic style, and eclectic approach to drama inspire the writers, actors, and directors who follow in his footsteps.