Jack Williamson’s Darker than You Think

Darker than You Think – Jack Williamson
Bluejay Books – 1984 (First published as a novel in 1948)


Journalist Will Barbee goes to the airport to cover the story of a team of scientists returning from an excavation in the Gobi Desert. He meets April Bell, an alluring redhead, and seems to fall in love on the spot. The leader of the scientists dies moments after getting off the plane, and Will immediately suspects April of playing a part in his death. One thing leads to another and pretty soon there’s a naked babe riding around town on the back of a sabre-tooth tiger.

Hell yes. Hell fucking yes.

Jack Williamson was a science fiction writer, and I’ve seen people refer to this book as his horror novel, but while it does contain werewolves, it reads more like pulp fantasy than anything else. It’s quite exciting, but never really scary. I thought it was great.

Darker than You Think had been on my to-read list ever since I saw it mentioned in a biography of Jack Parsons. By the time I got around to reading the novel, I had forgotten what its connection to the occultist/rocket scientist was. Reading it made this connection pretty clear. This is the story of a normal guy who meets a redhead who awakens his hidden powers. Crowley, Parson’s magickal mentor, had referred to his first wife as his scarlet woman, and Parsons later used this moniker for Marjorie Cameron, his own red-headed second wife, the one he met after the Babalon Working, a sex magic ritual that involved him repeatedly bumming Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard out in the desert.

Parsons was such a fan of the book that he organised a meeting with Williamson in 1941. The novel that I read was first published in 1948, but a shorter version of the story had appeared in Unknown magazine in 1940. Parson’s didn’t meet Marjorie Cameraon until 1946, and when he did he wrote to Crowley saying, “She has red hair and slant green eyes as specified. She is an artist, strongminded
and determined, with strong masculine characteristics and a fanatical independence.” It seems to me that he had been keeping his eye out for a real life April Bell for six years.

Jack Parsons was an influential man in several realms. The extent of Darker than You Think‘s influence on Parsons is unclear, but it seems considerable. All that aside, it’s also a fun book. It’s also pretty easy to find a copy, so give it a read.

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