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"Everything starts as somebody's daydream. And, when you're daydreaming, it is science fiction. It's when you start work out how you put it together, true science fiction becomes real science."
- Larry Niven

Sub-C  
  Of ships, older models that travel at speeds below that of light.  

Irma Gordon was one of the original settlers of the Riga system. Origin unknown. Probably born out in space ó in one of the old sub-C ships. A strange feeling drifted through him. The little old creature. The centuries she had seen! The changes.
From The Impossible Planet, by Philip K. Dick.
Published by Not Known in 1953
Additional resources -

Stanley Schmidt used the same expression in War of Independence (1982):

"Okay, brace yourself. You may remember there was a false start before interstellar expansion from Sol really got going. A pair of sub-c ships called the Mayflower and the Columbus set out together for Alpha Centauri. The Mayflower made it. The Columbus hit the wake of a Redskin warpship bound for Alpha Persei and disappeared.

"At that time our ancestors didnít even know the Redskins existed, and the incident scared them silly. They stopped trying for the stars for about a third of a century. Things didnít get going again until Kokes stumbled onto c-barrier tunneling and people met the Redskins. They found out in a general way what happened to the Columbus, but they still didnít know where it wound up. Well, it wound up on Midnnoa.Ē

Murray nodded. So the wreck on Midnnoa was the Columbusl The Chercqs, then, were not just any shipwreck survivor descendants. 'They were one of the two oldest human colonies outside the Solar System ó and still one of the most remote.

Compare to ftl from The Enchanted Forest (1950) by Fritz Leiber, which is as far as I know the first use of this abbreviation for faster-than-light from Islands of Space (1931) by John W. Campbell, which is as far as I know, the first use of that phrase in science fiction.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Impossible Planet
  More Ideas and Technology by Philip K. Dick
  Tech news articles related to The Impossible Planet
  Tech news articles related to works by Philip K. Dick

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