What is the earliest story or book combining technology for FTL communication with a lack of FTL travel?

I first remember encountering this concept in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game:

("Ender's Game"): After the war, when Valentine meets Ender and tells him that she will be going to the first colony, Ender says "It's fifty years to get there". Her answer, "Only two years if you're aboard the ship".

("Speaker for the Dead"), "Lightspeed travel", and later, on the trip to Lusitania, it is mentioned "the only task was to calculate how near to lightspeed the ship was traveling".

The ansible, however, provided near-instantaneous communication.

I then encountered this in Ursula LeGuin's Hainish cycle. The Hainish cycle predates the Ender series, beginning I believe in 1966. (As a matter of fact, Orson Scott Card mentions that he got the idea, and the 'ansible' name, from the Hainish cycle. See http://www.hatrack.com/questions/ and search for "Hainish".)

It seems to me that this creative combination would have a unique effect on the world/universe being described, culture, etc., as the dynamics of instantaneous (or, almost) communication, but needing years to get to different star systems (and the relativistic effects thereof) are quite different than either FTL travel & communication or STL travel & communication.

Since what I find unique/interesting about this is the unique influences this would have on culture and so forth, I would consider accepting an answer where this combination (FTL or instantaneous communication with no FTL travel) existed in the world/universe for a significant amount of time (enough to influence the culture significantly, say, a few generations at least), and FTL travel was discovered later (and the book or series explores the period before FTL travel, rather than mentioning it as a historical tidbit).

We have seen in my earlier question that there are some very interesting earlier examples of a similar dynamic where the communication is telepathic. I am also interested in finding earlier examples of this concept where the communication is solved by a technological breakthrough in communications, which is not matched with a similar breakthrough in physical travel.

Were there earlier examples of this than the ones I mentioned above? What (and when!) is the earliest example?

NOTE: OSC mentions (same source as above) that he encountered this concept in a short story where all messages were preceded by a beep, which, when analyzed, turned out to contain all messages ever sent by this method, past and future. This story appears to be identified in this question, as the 1954 James Blish story, "Beep". However, I have skimmed parts of the story and they did actually have FTL travel; the similarity is that FTL travel still took weeks or months while the Dirac communicator was instantaneous.

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    Wikipedia mentions the interocitor from This Island Earth but they apparently also had FTL travel, since they were able to visit Metaluna and return to the same Earth, not one centuries older...
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 19:01
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    There were apparently some short stories in the Hainish cycle that featured people traveling faster than light using new developments in "Churten theory", though from reading some of the descriptions it sounds like it had harmful effects on those who made the jump so maybe that's why it didn't become widespread (also these stories were written later than the more famous Hainish cycle stories like The Dispossessed so maybe you could still say those earlier stories would qualify).
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 19:38
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    Also, even in earlier Hainish stories I believe it was possible to transport non-living matter FTL, just not people--would this count in terms of what you're asking for? If anyone can find an earlier example of FTL communication without FTL travel prior to the earliest Hainish stories (Rocannon's World and Planet of Exile from 1966) it probably wouldn't have this feature, so it might not matter.
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Jun 21, 2021 at 19:41
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    @Valorum - where? From the conversation between Graff and Ender, on the way to Eros, it certainly doesn't sound like that. They discovered from the buggers that FTL communication was possible ("We knew then that it was possible. To communicate faster than light. ", and they did it. But they sent the ships toward the bugger homeworld as soon as they had this; it took them about 75 years to arrive; their breakthrough was FTL communication, not travel.
    – Basya
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 7:42
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    Later in Speaker for the Dead, on the trip to Lusitania, it is mentioned "the only task was to calculate how near to lightspeed the trip was traveling".
    – Basya
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 15:20

2 Answers 2


In George O. Smith's Venus Equilateral stories (mostly published in Astounding in the early 1940s), there was a background element of STL interplanetary travel. The resourceful engineers at the Venus Equilateral space station routinely invent revolutionary new technologies. In one of the stories, "Beam Pirate" (October, 1944), they come up with a faster-than-light communications method.

  • Cool! That is significantly earlier even than "Beep", which had inspired OSC but which actually had FTL travel, just not near the communication speed.
    – Basya
    Commented Jul 17, 2023 at 8:20

As far as I have been able to find, the earliest example is indeed Ursula LeGuin's Hainish cycle, where travel is below the speed of light and with relativistic effects) but communication is instantaneous via the ansible.

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