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"A science fiction story is a story built around human beings, with a human problem and a human solution, which would not have happened at all without its scientific content."
- Theodore Sturgeon

Ray gun  
  A weapon that projects a beam of destructive force.  

Earliest use of this phrase as far as I know.

From the conical Ray guns on the enclosing walls swept sheets of blinding flame, a soundless cannonade that pecked at the interstices in the walls of the Temple and of the 293Airscouts’ Fortress, seeking for some unpainted spot between the blocks of stone, some small, abraded surface where the cold Rays might find lodgment. I heard the crumbling of disintegrating mortar and saw fragments of stone flying from cornice and pediment. Soon gaps would open and the whole splendid pile tumble into a heap of shapeless ruins.

The Rays flashed to and fro like brilliant lightning.

From The Messiah of the Cylinders, by Victor Rousseau.
Published by AC McClurg & Co. in 1917
Additional resources -

The secret of the Ray:

“What is this Ray?”

"It is a combustion by old light, stored solar energy being transmitted for that and all other power purposes from the great solar works on the Vosges Mountains. Its invention made the old warfare obsolete. Our small-arms are miniature Ray mirrors, charged with a single unit; our big ordnance is supplied from the Vosges by cable connection. The Ray destroys everything that it encounters, not protected by the glow paint which you may have observed on the fronts of our buildings."

Compare to the heat ray from War of the Worlds (1898) by HG Wells.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Messiah of the Cylinders
  More Ideas and Technology by Victor Rousseau
  Tech news articles related to The Messiah of the Cylinders
  Tech news articles related to works by Victor Rousseau

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