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In the late 1980s I came across many representations of orbital directed-energy weapons. In 1987-1988 alone there were the "Finger of God" weapons in Vinge's "True Names" (1981, but read in True Names ... and other Dangers 1987), the laser satellites in Bova's "Battle Station" (1988, in the eponymous collection) and SOL in Akira.

This previous question seemed to want to ask about orbital beam weapons, but accepted as an answer one that showed nuclear-armed missiles being stored in orbit.

I'm wondering what was the first work to depict orbital directed-energy weapons?

  • not spaceships capable of moving beyond orbit or re-entering
  • not platforms for dropping bombs or missiles stored in orbit
  • not kinetic weapons (a.k.a. "rods from God")
  • Can't put this as an answer as no source other than memory, but I recall something that may count in the Lensman series. – Alith Aug 10 at 21:33
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If you count orbiting weapons that just concentrate the sun's energy using mirrors/lenses (like using a magnifying glass to burn ants), there's a 1927 example mentioned on p. 260 of the article "The Historical Death Ray and Science Fiction in the 1920s and 1930s":

The 1927 German novel Flammen aus dem Weltraum [Flames from Space] by Karl August von Laffert describes a space station mounted with huge reflectors that act as a sun gun, anticipating, or perhaps inspiring, the actual secret German project at Hillersleben mentioned previously.

Searching a little for this title, I think the article misprinted the name, it should be Flammen aus dem Weltenraum. And as for the "actual secret German project" they mention, see here and here for more details.

The Project Rho page on "Orbital Planetary Attack" includes this section which gives plenty of other examples of stories involving this type of weapon from the early 20th century, though none earlier than 1927.

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