Every day that your grandpa woke up and tried to decide between corn flakes or eggs for breakfast, Jack Parsons was struggling with, "Should I make today's miracle in science…or magic?" Looking at that book cover, you know you've got yourself a perfect example of historical manlitude. The man wrote a tome with both "Freedom" and "Sword" in the title, and when dressing for the cover shoot, decided a pipe was more important than a shirt.
The occult rocket scientist had a life that made pulp novelists stop typing for a moment and shake their heads in disbelief. He was born Marvel Whiteside Parsons, but changed his name so that mortal men didn't suspect his alien heritage. While still a senior in high school, he took a job at The Hercules Powder Company, which sounds like either a barely closeted men's club or the producers of a hilariously dangerous skin cream back when all drugs were legal.
Parsons went to college, just in case the professors needed his help, but was too busy inventing the space age to graduate. By 1936, he was researching rockets, and so you know that's even harder than it sounds, consider that it hadn't been ten years since Lindbergh wowed folks by flying from New York to Paris without dying. He was an even better chemist than physicist, and legend has it he beat Batman in a fistfight once. He developed solid rocket fuel, so he was kind of a huge deal in winning World War II and getting to the moon. If it wasn't for Parsons, the moon people would be speaking German right now.
No sooner had he started his career than he co-founded Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is now part of NASA, even though it precedes it by almost two decades. Today JPL explores alien worlds and builds the robots that will eventually overthrow us.
In a time when newspapers printed editorials about how Christianity was the one true religion and people looked at you weird if you weren't racist, Parsons was speaking out for civil liberties and praying to deities who hadn't had a worshipper since the ballista was cutting-edge military technology. He'd never let a test rocket launch without chanting to Pan. Brother, when you're witnessing the birth of the space age, and you've got a wunderkind occultist next to you chanting hymns to Greek demigods, write that down in your diary, because you are the very first, and indeed, one of the last, people to ever enjoy that experience.
Aleister Crowley , who never had a real job because he was too busy climbing mountains and declaring himself The Beast of the Apocalypse, named Parsons head of a Thelemic lodge. See? You do enough alchemy, you get to run your own cult, so don't let anyone tell you you'll never use math. The Englishman also warned Parsons that bastard L. Ron Hubbard would steal his money and dame. Say what?
Yeah, this is where it gets weird. See, by now, Parsons wife had left him, as women often do when you sleep with their sisters. The mad scientist had also started doing magic with terrible science-fiction author and even worse human being L. Ron Hubbard, who had not yet started declaring "If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." Being L. Ron Hubbard, he naturally figured out the sleaziest thing he could do would be to worm his way into Parsons' apartment, and then steal the girlfriend of the guy he was mooching off of. What's the world coming to when you can't even trust your wife's sister to stay seduced to you?
But Parsons was cool with whatever, so he and Hubbard went into the desert to do whatever depraved actions it would take to summon a Scarlet Woman. No joke, they just prayed to dark gods for a redhead, and one appeared. Parsons went home, and this dame Marjorie Cameron was waiting in his house. So long as dark longings stir within the hearts of men, redhead chromosomes will never be lost in the river of genetics. A darker theory would be that Hubbard sent her to Parsons' place, but who can say? Everybody's dead. Jack and Marjorie married, even though his ex-wife's sister was still kinda-sorta his girlfriend. It's like we said: weird.
Again, being Hubbard, it wasn't long before he stole the girlfriend, the money, and the boat they had bought with Parsons' money. Most men would go after them and rip the little shit apart with their bare hands, grown rough and calloused from so many years of hurling rockets at the sky. But Jack Parsons didn't need to flex any muscles beyond his lips. He just went to his hotel room and summoned a typhoon with magic.
The spell only managed to raise a squall, but come on, he was working on the fly here. How many weather systems did you create with magic today, Thor? Oh, none? Then shut up, because Jack Parsons stalled his wrongdoer long enough for the Coast Guard to drag Hub-bub back to land.
He was appearing in science fiction novels while he was still alive. He's the basis for Iron Man's dad, meaning he's the standard that an alcoholic billionaire adventure superhero inventor looks up to and can never please. And take a look at who authored his biography, for which the only appropriate title was...
It took Playboy's resident mystic and the warlord of Mars working together to even begin to account for everything Parsons did. Astronomers named a crater on the Moon after him, which fits his life since it's a huge impact on the far side.
At age 37, Parsons had done everything a man can do to conquer the world, so it was time to go out big: in a fiery explosion. Your move, universe.
Brendan McGinley is a mix of science and magic, but it's viral pathology and pretending to steal your nose