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"It was my preferred entertainment when I was a kid, so when I set out to be a writer, it was perfectly natural that I should write the sort of stories that I used to enjoy reading."
- John Brunner

Seven Vane Starship  
  A faster-than-light ship with seven vanes of energy controlled by human nervous systems.  

To move a ship faster than light from star to star, you take advantage of the very twists in space, the actual distortions that matter creates in the continuum itself. To talk about the speed of light as the limiting velocity of an object is to talk about twelve or thirteen miles an hour as the limiting velocity of a swimmer in the sea. But as soon as one starts to employ the currents of the water itself, as well as the wind above, as with a sailboat, the limit vanishes. The starship had seven vanes of energy acting somewhat like sails. Six projectors controlled by computers sweep the vanes across the night. And each cyborg stud controls a computer. The captain controls the seventh. The vanes of energy had to be tuned to the shifting frequencies of the stasis pressures; and the ship itself was quietly hurled from this plane of space by the energy of the Illyrion in its core. That was what Olga and her cousins did. But the control of the shape and the angling of the vane was best left to a human brain. That was the Mouse's job— under the captain's orders. The captain also had blanket control of many of the sub-vane properties.

The cubicle's walls were covered with graffiti from former crews. There was a contour couch. The Mouse adjusted the inductance slack in a row of seventy microfarad coil-condensers, slid the tray in to the wall, and sat.

He reached around to the small of his back beneath his vest, and felt for the socket. It had been grafted onto the base of his spinal cord back at Cooper. He picked up the first reflex cable that looped across the floor to disappear into the computer's face, and fiddled with it till the twelve prongs slipped into his socket and caught. He took the smaller, six-prong plug and slipped it into the plug on the underside of his left wrist; then the other into his right. Both radial nerves were connected with Olga. At the back of his neck was another socket. He slipped the last plug in— the cable was heavy and tugged a little on his neck— and saw sparks. This cable could send impulses directly to his brain that could bypass hearing and sight. There was a faint hum coming through already. He reached over, adjusted a knob on Olga's face, and the hum cleared. Ceiling, walls, and floor were covered with controls. The room was small enough so that he could reach most of them from the couch. But once the ship took off, he would touch none of them, but control the vane directly with the nervous impulses from his body.

From Nova, by Samuel R. Delany.
Published by Doubleday in 1968
Additional resources -

This is what flying a starship was like:

"All secure?" Von Ray's voice rang through the ship. "Open the fore vanes."

The Mouse's eyes began to flicker with new sight—

— the space port: lights over the field, the lavid fissures of the crust fell to dim, violet quiverings at the spectrum's tip. But above the horizon, the 'winds' were brilliant.

"Pull open the side vane seven degrees."

The Mouse flexed what would have been his left arm. And the side vane lowered like a wing of mica. "Hey, Katin," the Mouse whispered. "Ain't that something! Look at it—"

The Mouse shivered, crouched in a shield of light. Olga had taken over his breathing and heartbeat while the synapses of the medulla were directed to the workings of the ship.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Nova
  More Ideas and Technology by Samuel R. Delany
  Tech news articles related to Nova
  Tech news articles related to works by Samuel R. Delany

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