The Diamond Lense and Other Stories by Fritz-James O’Brien (Obverse Books 2012), TOC


The Diamond Lens and Other Stories by Fitz-James O’Brien was originally published in 1932. The cover shown here is from the 2012 edition published by Obverse Books.

The Diamond Lens and Other Stories by Fitz-James O’Brien was originally published in 1932. capitalized on the success of his predecessors Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Shelley in writing disturbing stories with demented protagonists, and this collection of three tales shows his mastery of the macabre. “The Diamond Lens” tells of a lone scientist’s discovery of a microcosmic world within a drop of water, and his growing obsession with the beautiful Animula, a fair maiden within this world which he can see but never enter. His uncompromising pursuit of knowledge at any cost foreshadows the mad scientist familiar to readers in a multitude of works. In “What Was It?” an invisible man is discovered by residents of a boarding house. The residents’ capture and investigation of the creature blends the fantastic with the scientific as they seek rational explanations for this extraordinary phenomenon. “The Wondersmith” is a macabre tale of an embittered toymaker who seeks revenge upon the society that has persecuted him by creating demonic mannequins and imbuing them with life in order to slaughter the masses—a fantastic melodrama in which the cunning Wondersmith is offset by the unassuming and unlikely hero Solon the hunchback, in love with the villain’s daughter.

Table of Contents

  • The Diamond Lens
  • What is it?  A Mystery
  • The Wondersmith
  • The Golden Ingot


About the Author


First edition cover.

Fitz-James O’Brien (1828–62) is best known as a writer of Gothic short stories now seen as precursors of modern science fiction. One of the very earliest science fiction authors, whose work has not been in print since 1929, Fitz-James O’Brien was an Irish writer of poetry, plays and short stories who fought in the American Civil War and was killed in battle in 1862. His imaginative and often surreal fantasies have rightly been described as one of the earliest forerunners of modern science fiction. Born in Ireland, he lived in Britain for several years before immigrating to the United States, where he joined the New York National Guard in 1861 and was fatally wounded in a skirmish with Confederate troops the following year.

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