22

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.” - Han Solo, naturally.

So, by the time Star Wars was released, blaster was an established science-fiction term for an energy-based weapon (aka ray gun). But what was the first known usage of the term in that context?

  • 1
    There might not be a direct connection, but a blaster was one who detonated rocks in the mining industry, and the term dates back to 1776. A 1921 Engineering and Mining Journal (page 44, right-hand column) reports of a new detonating device: 'This "Davis No. 1 Blaster" is so small that it fits the average hand, but has power to fire five 30-ft. copper-wire electric caps connected in series.' – Hugo Jul 15 '12 at 20:30
20

Jeff Prucher's Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction gives a first use of 1925.

blaster citation

I heartily recommend Brave New Words to anybody interested in SF history or language.

  • Strange that the earliest quote in the full Oxford English Dictionary is from Asimov's 1950 Pebble in the Sky. – Hugo Jul 15 '12 at 20:18
8

I think I remember the early serial versions of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon using the term, but even if they didn't, here's a reference to the term being used as early as 1925 in When the Green Star Waned by Nictzin Dyalhis. I'm still looking for references to weapons in the early serials or comics that use the term "blaster."

  • 1
    I chose the other Dyalhis answer as accepted due to an actual citation, but this was a great answer as well! +1 – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 22 '11 at 16:23
7

I imagine this is one of those questions that it will be hard to find a definitive answer. However, a quick search on google books produced this from Astounding science fiction, July 1939 (John W. Campbell, editor).

text

4

EE Doc Smith mentions blasters in the Lensman series.

According to Wikipedia, there is the DeLameter in later books, Lewiston in "First Lensman". Chronologically, it would be "Galactic Patrol" 1937

  • Is there evidence that blasters are mentioned in the early Lensman series books? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 22 '11 at 11:25
  • @DVK: Short of reading the book and giving page numbers, I don't know. I know blasters are mentioned but it has been years since I've read them so resorted to Wikipedia. I hadn't realised that mathematical proof was needed... – gbn Oct 22 '11 at 11:52
  • my concern is that the series spans a LONG time (at least 1935s to 1950s), and while some books in a series had blasters (as Wikipedia says), the issue is whether it was the books which preceeded, say, July 1939). Since I'm looking for the earliest, that is kind of an important point – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 22 '11 at 13:12
  • 1
    Since I haven't gone through the book myself, I can't be sure, but Google Books, says nope to Galactic Patrol. – Sam Oct 22 '11 at 14:35
  • 3
    Triplanetary (first book in the lensman series) has 6 mentions of blaster in the second chapter 'Fall of Atlantis. It specifically mentions blasters 'flaming'. Serialised from September 1937. – GHPT Aug 1 '18 at 22:26
0

In an attempt to answer my own question, I have found these 2 relatively early mentions (interestingly, from same year), by following a list in Wikipedia's "ray gun" entry:

Book: Asimov's "Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury" (written in 1955, published 1956)

Movie: "Forbidden Planet" (1956 as well)

However, I doubt that it's the earliest use ever, given "SF Glossary"'s mention:

[first use unknown, goes back at least to 1930s]

  • Asimov used blasters earlier, in Foundation. Foundation provided quite a bit of inspiration for Star Wars, possibly including the term blaster. However, as others have noted, Asimov didn't invent that term. – user56 Oct 22 '11 at 14:11
  • @Gilles - I knew about Fundation, but for some reason was so 100% sure it was post-1950s that didn't even bother checking. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 22 '11 at 14:55

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