Fitz James O’Brien, 1828-1862


Biographical note

Irish-born American writer, some of whose work is often considered one of the forerunners of today's science fiction.

His first important literary connection was with Harper's Magazine, and beginning in February, 1853, with The Two Skulls, he contributed more than sixty articles in prose and verse to that periodical. He likewise wrote for the New York Saturday Press, Putnam's Magazine, Vanity Fair, and the Atlantic Monthly. To the latter he sent The Diamond Lens (1858) and The Wonder Smith (1859), which are unsurpassed as creations of the imagination, and are unique among short magazine stories. The Diamond Lens is probably his most famous short story, and tells the story of a scientist who invents a powerful microscope discovers a beautiful female in a microscopic world inside a drop of water. The Wonder Smith is an early predecessor of robot rebellion, where toys possessed by evil spirits are transformed into living automatons who turns against their creators. His 1858 short called Horrors Unknown has been referred to as "the single most striking example of surrealistic fiction to pre-date Alice in Wonderland " (Sam Moskowitz, 1971). What Was It? A Mystery (1859) is one of the earliest known examples of invisibility in fiction.

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