spy ray n.

a ray that allows a user to detect sound, images, or thoughts at a distant location or through a barrier

Now rare.

SF Encyclopedia

  • 1934 E. E. Smith Triplanetary in Amazing Stories Jan. 22/1 page image Edward E. Smith bibliography

    Keep still!… Don’t act so happy! He may have a spy-ray on you. He can’t hear me, but he may be able to hear you.

  • 1939 E. E. Smith Gray Lensman in Astounding Science-Fiction Oct. 32/1 page image Edward E. Smith bibliography

    ‘You aren’t asking if everything stayed on the beam.’…‘No need. I had a spy ray on the whole performance.’

  • 1941 ‘H. Raymond’ Last Viking in Cosmic Stories Mar. 98/1 page image John B. Michel bibliography

    Occasionally a machine would break down. Such accidents were of no moment. Immediately, circuits would flash into activity, spy-ray beams would focus upon delicate dials and a small repairing machine would spin into life.

  • 1944 A. E. van Vogt Far Centaurus in Astounding Science Fiction 76/1 page image A. E. van Vogt bibliography

    They’ve already spotted us with their spy rays and energy screens. A ship’s coming out to meet us.

  • 1944 M. Jameson The Leech in Astounding Science Fiction Jan. 53/1 page image Malcolm Jameson bibliography

    We should have tackled telepathics. What better spy ray would you want than the ability to look into another man’s mind?

  • 1947 J. H. Haggard Girl of the Silver Sphere in Planet Stories Fall 118/2 page image J. Harvey Haggard bibliography

    Inside the room—the spy-ray danced…. It was a white heat applied to his brain fibre, a furnace of unknown forces fanned to utmost intensity. His mind reeled from the impact.

  • 1949 R. S. Shaver Fall of Lemuria in Other Worlds Nov. 23/2 page image Richard S. Shaver bibliography

    She sensed it had been watching some member of this household, and she knew then it was a spy ray, for her family were all apt to be engaged in important defense work for the safety of her people. It had been taking notes of the sleeping minds in this house for a long time. Taking thought records from the sleeping minds of the details of the routing of supplies.

  • 1957 J. F. Barrie Postmortem in New Worlds May 128 page image

    The ‘Gimmick’ story. Rare nowadays. Dealing with the invention of some gadget such as a spy ray, or a drug which shrinks the user to the size of an ant. Juvenile appeal mainly.

  • 1964 ‘W. Atheling’ Things Still to Come: Gadgetry and Prediction in More Issues at Hand 49 James Blish

    A frightening thought as Asimov handled it, because he took an adult view of it; but a Heinlein would have used the same brilliant insight to bring out the Peeping Tom in us (what did happen to the spy rays of yesteryear, by the way?).

  • 1966 A. E. van Vogt Silkies in Space in Worlds of If May 29/2 page image A. E. van Vogt bibliography

    A breeze touched the super-sensitive spy-ray extensions that he maintained in operation under all circumstances. The little wind registered through the spy mechanisms, but did not trigger the defense screens behind them. It was only a breeze, after all; and he had never programmed himself to respond to such minor signals.

  • 1999 P. Di Filippo Plumage From Pegasus in Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Oct.–Nov. 196/2 Paul Di Filippo

    Every word the Pope uttered was picked up by Eddorian spy rays from light-years away.

  • 2007 J. C. Wright Titans of Chaos vii. 96 page image John C. Wright bibliography

    There is a chance that any use of our powers can be detected by means we can only guess. Oracular owls or orbital spy-rays or periscopes from dimensions even you don’t have a number for.

Research requirements

antedating 1934

Earliest cite

E. E. Smith 'Triplanetary'

Research History
Mike Christie submitted a 1938 cite from E.E. Smith's "Galactic Patrol".
Mike Christie submitted a 1941 cite from Theodore Sturgeon's "Artnan Process".
Mike Christie submitted a 1943 cite from A.E. van Vogt's "The Weapon Makers".
Mike Christie submitted a 1944 cite from Malcolm Jameson's "The Leech".
Mike Christie submitted a 1949 cite from James Schmitz's "Agent of Vega". Douglas Winston submitted a cite from a reprint of Robert Silverberg's "Stepsons of Terra"; Mike Christie verified the cite in the 1958 first edition.
Malcolm Farmer submitted a 1972 cite from E.E. Smith's "Triplanetary"; and Alistair Durie verified the cite in the 1934 first publication.
Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a 1974 reprint of a 1964 article by "William Atheling Jr." (James Blish).
Jeff Prucher submitted a 1999 cite from Paul Di Filippo's "Plumage from Pegasus".

Last modified 2022-08-18 01:14:34
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.