I am looking for help to point me out at a very old novel (likely from the '60s) about two empires at interstellar war. When it comes to starships, one is technologically very advanced, and the other has very low and inefficient technology.

The highly advanced empire has apparently strong chances to win the war, in particular considering a new technology they were developing. I remember the technology to work like this: consider the space as a flat surface, and on this surface, a disk around the spaceship. When the technology was turned on, this disk was stretched out, as made of rubber, so that it produced a cone, with the tip being the spaceship. The spaceship was therefore teleported 10 parsec away (if I remember correctly), but retained all the connections to the original position. If the spaceship moved, the cone moved as well. This allowed to move in position among enemy ships completely unnoticed, by stretching while afar, then moving in the proper position 10 parsecs away, then destretching.

Despite this technology, the empire lost the war because of delays. It's a perfect example of how having a disruptive technology does not guarantee to win against the competitors.

I am trying to find out the author and name of this novel, hopefully with the date of publication and in which journal/magazine.

  • 3
    "a very old novel (likely from the '60s)" -- oh my aching back. Jan 13, 2012 at 16:31
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    @Strangeland: my back aches even if I am a generation X. Jan 13, 2012 at 18:26

1 Answer 1


That was a short story, "Superiority", by Arthur C. Clarke. (It is available online, but this might be without the author's permission.) I don't remember where it first appeared. It's a good story, and has been reprinted lots of places.

The empires started at roughly equal technology, but a scientist on one side kept introducing new and superior weapons, amazing in effect, that lost the war.

The "disk" technology was called "The Exponential Field":

It was as if one took a flat disk of rubber - representing a region of normal space - and then pulled its center out to infinity.


For a ship fitted with the Field could approach an enemy fleet undetected and suddenly appear in its midst.

  • From the description, it matches what I remember. The "exponential field" also rings some bell. Thanks! Jan 19, 2011 at 11:00
  • FYI, that story's existance was actually used to advance a couple of plot points by Eric Flint in "1633" book Apr 9, 2011 at 14:32
  • From "Superiority" I remember the marvelous new torpedoes that are a little larger than the old ones, requiring a total retrofit, and revision of tactics, and so on and on, but I don't remember the "stretching" technology. Is it possible that it's a different story?
    – Beta
    Mar 6, 2012 at 17:46

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