Sometimes ideas come from unexpected places.
I was researching occult artists – specifically Majorie Cameron Parsons Kimmel – or Cameron as she always signed herself. She was a friend of Kenneth Anger, Juliet Greco and follower of Alastair Crowley as well as setting up her own multi racial occult group called “The Children”.
In researching Cameron I came across details of her husband Jack Parsons and was astonished no-one had used him for the basis of a novel (although he features as a character in Anthony Boucher’s Rocket to the Morgue and L Sprague de Camp’s Gun for a Dinosaur). He led a life you couldn’t make up.
Parsons was a largely self taught rocket scientist whose pioneering work with a group of friends and later with Caltech and other organisations in the late 30s and early 40s helped the US space programme to take off.
He was also an active communist, and a follower of Crowley – he became the leading member of Crowley’s Agape Lodge in the USA and set up a commune with his wife, her sister, and other OTO followers. It was too early for rock and roll, but there was plenty of sex and drugs. He had worked for months on a ritual called Babalon designed to incarnate the Thelemite goddess. When Cameron arrived, he was convinced she was that incarnation, although she did not know about the ritual until years later.
In the meantime one of his lodgers was Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard who swindled Parsons out of his life savings.
Parsons had been eased out of the rocket industry by the security services because of concerns about his behaviour and associations – including supposedly working for the Israeli secret service. He was still working on rocketry, while being employed as an explosives expert by the film industry. On June 17 1952 he was working on some explosives when his laboratory was destroyed in what seemed like an accident. However friends and colleagues suggested it was sabotage or suicide.
An amazing life filled with cameos by many of the important figures of the age including key members of the Beats, science fiction writers, occultists, scientists and more.