I'm starting 2009 with the flu. That's what I get for taking a flu shot this year.
I spent the time between Xmas and New Year's in Oregon, visiting with friends. One day they marched me to 500 Goodwill stores, book stores, and a couple of cheap eateries in the cold and rain, which probably helped lay me low. Nevertheless, I had a very good time and it was fun to talk of fannish things to kindred spirits.
One book I found in Portland is called Sex and Rockets, by John Carter (not of Mars). It tells the story of Marvel W. Parsons, alias John Parsons, alias Jack Parsons. As John Parsons he was a brilliant chemist who co-founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and invented the JATO system for aircraft (jet-assisted takeoff). His inventions are still used by NASA today.
As Jack Parsons he was a disciple of Aleister Crowley (The Great Beast) and practiced arcane rituals and black magick in his large L.A. home. My interest in Parsons is linked to the latter discipline, in that one of the kooks he brought into his life back then was L. Ron Hubbard, one of the biggest flim-flammers of history. About all Parsons got from his relationship with Hubbard was a business partnership in which LRH put up $1,800 and Parsons put up $20,000. Soon after Hubbard absconded with ten grand and Parsons' girlfriend. It was possible that this period of his life taught Hubbard how to practice mind control, use gobbledygook argot, and run scams on the trusting and naive, a skill he would put to effective use a short time later with his Dianetics/Scientology scam.
I wish there had been more about the Hubbard/Parsons relationship in this book, and less of the incantations and spells, but it is interesting for what it is--the life of a brilliant but confused and foolish man.
This is a new book and can be purchased at you local book dealer's or on line.