Michael O'Brien was born in Cork, Ireland on 25th October 1826.
He finished his education at the University of Dublin and some accounts have him serving for a time in the British army at some in this period.
Whilst at college he had shown some talent for writing poetry and two of his poems were later published in 'The Ballads of Ireland' (1856).
Departing for London with an £8,000 inheritance that was all spent during his stay of 4 years, he spent some time editing a periodical to aid the World's Fair of 1851.
A year later he was bound for the United States with a new name, Fitz James, and an ambition to obtain a career in literature.
His earliest works in the US were for The Lantern, before publishing works in the Home Journal, the New York Times, and the American Whig Review. However, his most important early outlet was Harper's Magazine, and he first published with them in February 1853, with 'The Two Skulls', and would over his short life contribute more than sixty articles of poetry and prose.
As an established writer he now proceeded to publish magazines and periodicals of the calibre of the New York Saturday Press, Putnam's Magazine, Vanity Fair, and the Atlantic Monthly to whom he sent 'The Diamond Lens' (1858) and 'The Wonder Smith' (1859). These are very early examples of science-fiction writing and along with several others establish him as one of the founders. He also wrote, either as originals or as adaptions several plays including 'A Gentleman from Ireland'.
In New York, he was associated with a brilliant set of contemporary Bohemians. At the weekly dinners hosted by the editor, actor and dramatist John Brougham, or at the nightly suppers at Pfaff's on Broadway, he was at the center of the entertainment.
With the outbreak of Civil War in 1861, O'Brien joined the 7th regiment of the New York National Guard hoping to see action at the front.
Fitz James O'Brien was badly wounded in a skirmish on 26th February 1862. From his wounds he caught tetanus and died at Cumberland, Maryland on 6th April 1862. He was 35.
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