As a child, I was enthralled by the works of Fitz James O’Brien. His vivid imagination and ability to craft compelling stories left a lasting impression on me. I remember being particularly drawn to his science fiction and fantasy tales, which transported me to other worlds and introduced me to unique and unforgettable characters.
One of my favorite O’Brien stories is “The Diamond Lens,” which tells the tale of a scientist who creates a microscope so powerful that he can see a beautiful woman living inside a single drop of water. The scientist becomes obsessed with this “water-nymph” and eventually builds a miniature submarine to visit her in her aquatic world. The story is a thought-provoking exploration of the dangers of obsession and the boundaries of scientific discovery.
Another O’Brien tale I frequently revisit is “What Was It? A Mystery,” which tells the story of a man encountering a mysterious, invisible entity in his apartment. The man initially tries to dismiss the creature as a figment of his imagination. Still, as the encounters become more and more terrifying, he is forced to confront the possibility that the entity is actual. The story is a masterful blend of horror and science fiction, which has stayed with me long after reading it.
One aspect of O’Brien’s writing I particularly admire is his ability to create complex and fully-realized characters. For example, in “The Lost Room,” O’Brien introduces us to a cast of characters searching for a mysterious and elusive room rumored to grant wishes. Each character has motivations and desires, and as the story unfolds, we learn more about their pasts and how they are connected. O’Brien’s ability to imbue his characters with depth and complexity is one of the things that makes his stories so engaging and memorable.
Despite his many accomplishments and contributions to literature, O’Brien’s life was tragically cut short at age 35. He died while serving in the Union Army during the American Civil War, and his untimely death robbed the world of a talented and influential writer. However, his legacy lives on through his enduring works, which are read and enjoyed by new generations of readers.
The Domesticated Monster: Freakishness and Masculinity in Fitz-James O’Brien’s “What Was It?” By Joyce L. Huff, Ball State University