The Jack Parsons Project
by Robert Guffey on October 25
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 Morgue. Philip 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….