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We get a lot of questions here asking what the first story of a certain type is. This is an example of a different sort of question—the last story of a certain type.

The luminiferous aether was an attempt to conceive of a medium through which electromagnetic waves could propagate. By the early 1900s, however, aether as a scientific theory was laid to rest, with special relativity and other theories offering more plausible explanations of wave propagation in vacuum.

What was the last science-fiction story to treat luminiferous aether as a legitimate scientific theory?

Things that don't count:

  • Modern stories (about post WW2) that have luminiferous aether. They almost certainly are not holding forth aether as a real phenomenon. The exception would be if some advocate of aether as serious theory has written a sci-fi book.
  • Fantasy stories that have something called aether, but which corresponds more to the classical element than to the 19th-century theory.
  • So, you're disregarding modern Steampunk stories, where the story's inhabitants believe the science of aether, but the author doesn't? – Adeptus Apr 27 '16 at 7:28
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    @Adeptus - Exactly. Otherwise the question would be both trivial to answer (i.e. some fanfiction published today), and wouldn't tell us anything about when sci-fi started leaving aether theory behind. – Adamant Apr 27 '16 at 7:32
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In "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (1978) there are references to "sub-ether radio" and a "sub-ether sens-o-matic".

Failing that (as they are comedy), Doc Smith was still using ether-waves in the Lensmen books in the 1930s and 1940s.

"They can't see us—our ether wall is still up and their spy-rays can't get through it from the outside, you know." - Triplanetary, Chapter 7

  • Could you add some quotes from Lensmen? – Adamant Apr 27 '16 at 22:05
  • I've added a quote from Triplanetary, as that's the only one that's on Gutenberg, and I don't have my hardcopies with me. The best quote would be from the discussion between Kinnison and the woman he's dancing with at the ball a couple of chapters into of Gray Lensman, in which he goes into some detail about the ether and sub-ether. – Jon B Apr 27 '16 at 22:14

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