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"We [science fiction writers] always wanted to believe in "private sector" space -- hucksters make better characters than a government does."
- Larry Niven

Sub-Etheric  
  Below the level at which ordinary light is propagated.  

As far as I know, this is the first use of this phrase in science fiction.

Mere probability is all that is left. And my first actual invention was a geodesic tracer, designed for its analysis. It was a semi-mathematical instrument, essentially a refinement of the old harmonic analyzer. Tracing the possible world-lines of material particles through Time, it opened a window to futurity‥

Here is the chronoscope. The latest development of the instrument. Scansion depends upon a special curved field, through which a sub-etheric radiation is bent into the time-axis, projected forward, and reflected from electronic fields back to the instrument. A stereoscopic image is obtained within the crystal screen, through selective fluorescence to the beat frequencies of the interfering carrier waves projected at right angles from below.

From Legion of Time, by Jack Williamson.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1938
Additional resources -

This expression was used by many authors, particularly in the sense of communication that was potentially faster than light (because it traveled "under" the luminiferous aether, which was a 19th century construct to explain the propagation of light.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Legion of Time
  More Ideas and Technology by Jack Williamson
  Tech news articles related to Legion of Time
  Tech news articles related to works by Jack Williamson

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