The Real Paul Jones

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Strange Angel and Hike Naked Day

A note from Cathy Marshall reminds me to look up the biography of occultist/rocket scientist/sci-fi inspirer John Whitsides Parson – Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons by George Pendle.
[tl781.85.p37 p46 2005]

Not entirely unrelated: June 21 is World Hike Naked Day according to several sources including the local press.


  1. For years I’ve been meaning to read Sex & Rockets, another Parson’s biography. I’ll have to add this one to the summer reading list.

  2. Steve Burnett

    6/17/2005 at 11:51 am

    Have it, read it. Pretty good biography. I found Pendle’s _Strange Angel_ a better and more accurate presentation of Parson’s rocketry career than of his occult interests. Still worth reading, I thought.

    An earlier biography of Parsons, Carter’s _Sex and Rockets_, I do not think is as well-written a biography as _Strange Angel_. Carter seemed to have a better understanding of of Parson’s occult life than I feel Pendle had when he began writing _Strange Angel_. However, one of the areas that I feel _Strange Angel_ is better than _Sex and Rockets_ is on the intersection of Parsons with the at-the-time- considered-almost-as-weird- as-his-occult-interests science fiction writing and fandom community of the time.

    For Parson’s occult history, both are helpful: Pendle’s book isn’t strong in that area because Pendle doesn’t appear to be as familiar with the topic, but _Strange Angel_ still has additional detail that’s beneficial.

    For an additional and immensely detailed, if tangential, account of Parson’s occultism, I recommend Martin Starr’s recent biography of W.T. Smith, _The Unknown God: W.T. Smith and the Thelemites_. Better written and much better researched than either of the Parsons bios, Starr is deeply familiar with the history of the occultism in California that Parsons became involved in (W.T. Smith was the head of the group at the time). Although Starr’s bio of Smith only tangentially touches on Parsons as far as he interacted with Smith, I found the chapters on Parsons in the bio of WT Smith well-written. Pendle cites Starr’s archive of information as one of the sources, but I found Starr’s coverage of Parsons more detailed.

  3. I went and grabbed the book from Davis Library. I’m the first one here to get hold of it. Already flipped ahead to see the part about Parsons being ripped off by L. Ron for all his cash on a boat scam. Wild stuff indeed.

  4. I have read Sex&Rockets too, its a great book, so yes please put it to the summer reading list!

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