Faster Than Light

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(Did you mean a different FTL?)


Faster-than-Light (FTL) travel is impossible according to modern physics, but is essential to proper skiffy. The universe has much to answer for as we are stuck with Slower Than Light (STL). Some SF at least posits a compromise of STL travel with FTL communication, like ansible.

The Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction credits D. D. Sharp with the first stfnal use of the adjective in “Lodestone Core” (Astonishing Stories, August 1940), citing a non-hyphenated postposition, "[A new spaceship] must be aluminum alloy and faster than light by three times at least." (Further instances in the story are, "The following months faster than light afforded nothing that might be termed companionship" and "the ship ... was gone ... Gone! Earthward, soon at faster than light.")

Sharp had earlier even titled an "off-trail feature-length super-science novelette" as "Faster Than Light" (Marvel Science Stories, February 1939); however its "Molerri was there somewhere in the space before my eyes, faster than light, leaving no reflection for my scope to touch" is relegated by the HDSF into the sister entry for the (much older, Hugo Gernsback in Amazing Aug 1928) adverbial, unhyphenated phrase. (This is ambiguous, and there are some more similar instances in the story: "Molerri was full of himself and a new conquest which was to take his ship, faster than light, to planets unknown"; "the rocketship ... dwindled away and then was blotted from sight ... Gone — faster than light — lost before my eyes.")

The first unquestionable use as a hyphenated modifier in HDSF is "ship wrapped in the utter unapproachability of faster-than-light travel" in Murray Leinster's "The Manless Worlds" (Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1947) although it is conceivable there are earlier examples, pre-empted in search by the Sharp one.

Fritz Leiber was first to use the initialism “FTL” in “Enchanted Forest” (Astounding Science Fiction, October 1950).



Fiction 1940
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