Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Jack Parsons Project

Unexpectedly, Jack Whiteside Parsons appears to be ubiquitous these days.  Parsons was the sorcerer-cum-scientist who helped found Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and was instrumental in developing the rocket fuel that propelled the United States to the moon.  There's a crater on the moon named after Parsons to commemorate his contributions to the aerospace industry.  Parsons is also the author of the greatest libertarian manifesto ever written, "Freedom Is a Two-Edged Sword," which should be required reading in high school civics courses.  

Infamously, sadly, Parsons blew himself up in his Pasadena home while experimenting with rocket fuel.  Or did he blow himself up?  Some claim Parsons was assassinated, or that his death was faked as part of a complicated "brain drain" covert operation conducted by the U.S. government, or that... well, the speculations go on and on.

At one time Parsons was the hidden ground of 1940s/1950s Southern California history, serving as inspiration to only a select few, such as the writers Anthony Boucher and Philip K. Dick.  Boucher based a character on Parsons in his 1942 mystery novel, Rocket to the MorguePhilip K. Dick, whose career Boucher was instrumental in launching when Boucher was serving as editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, reportedly based a character on Parsons in his 1960 novel, Dr. Futurity.  

During the past few months, I couldn't help but notice that Parsons has been popping up in more and more unlikely places.  Parsons, along with his girlfriend Marjorie Cameron (who, subsequent to Parsons' death, evolved into an accomplished painter and actress, and was featured in such cult films as Kenneth Anger's Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and Curtis Harrington's Night Tide), appear as characters in Mark Frost's 2017 novel The Secret History of Twin Peaks.  There are oblique but crucial references to
  both Parsons and Cameron in Mark Frost and David Lynch's sui generis Gnostic parable, the eighteen-episode TV series Twin Peaks:  The Return.  (These references to Parsons and Cameron are analyzed by Alex Fulton in his mind-bending 9-8-17 Medium article entitled "Episodes 17 & 18 of Twin Peaks:  The Return Are Meant to be Watched in Sync.")  Parsons also appears, disguised under a fictional veneer, in the recent comic book mini-series entitled Bettie Page by David Avallone and Colton Worely, which revolves around the imaginary exploits of the infamous pin-up queen in 1950s Hollywood.

Perhaps more significantly, it has been reported that Parsons will be the subject of a CBS television series based on George Pendle's 2006 Parsons biography Strange Angel.  This series will be directed by David Lowery, whose most recent film was A Ghost Story.  (For further information on this upcoming series, read Steve Greene's 8-1-17 IndieWire article entitled "David Lowery Set to Direct TV Show About a Sex Occultist Who Helped Invent Rocket Science.")

Is all of this Parsons-related activity an example of what conspiracy theorist Michael A. Hoffman would call the "Revelation of the Method" (i.e., the unveiling of certain sinister hermetic obsessions on the part of the political elite in the form of popular entertainment), or is this simply a sign that the mass audience has evolved to the point where they can at last contemplate the importance of a transgressive, fringe figure like Parsons in the make-up of America's post-WWII development?

Back in 1996 I wrote a phantasmagorical short story entitled "A Babe of the Abyss" about Jack Parsons' connection to the creation of the Church of Scientology that I sold on first submission to a British anthology which was to have been called, if memory serves, The Creation of the Beast.  The story was scheduled to appear side-by-side with contributions by such writers as Alan Moore and Grant Morrison (in fact, if you happen to have a copy of the comic book The Invisibles Vol. 1 No. 25, you will see that Morrison makes a reference to this anthology in the letters page).  At one point the editor of the anthology, D.M. Mitchell--who had previously edited a superior Lovecraft-themed anthology entitled The Starry Wisdom--mailed me a cryptic letter, still filed away in my office somewhere, in which he expressed his concern about being hounded by Scientology lawyers when my story eventually appeared in print.  I was never paid for the story, and the anthology--as far as I know--was never even published.  

Only a few years later, roundabout 2000, Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Jack-Parsons-inspired comic book story "Brighter Than You Think" was outright censored by DC Comics, reportedly due to the same fears regarding legal reprisals from the Church of Scientology.  (An article about that incident can be found HERE.)  Perhaps it just wasn't time for Parsons' story to be fully explored?  Perhaps....

In the meantime, it's always best to go back to the source, the writings left behind by the man himself.  New Falcon Publications' collection of Parsons' essays, Freedom Is a Two-Edged Sword, can be attained HERE.  This volume receives my highest recommendation. 

No comments:

Post a Comment