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"I'm a farm boy. It's very interesting; you can detect self-starting characteristics in this society and they are strongest among people who have had some kind of rural upbringing and a very impressionable stage."
- Frank Herbert

Death-Beam  
  Ravening pale beams of light used in space battles.  

When you are forced to send a message like this one, the situation is not good: "Space ships in thousands and they're attacking us. They've come from somewhere toward our galaxy - have come out of outer space itself to attack our universe!"

...there leaped from the foremost of the up-rushing craft a pale broad beam of ghostly white light that stabbed up toward and past us, grazing our ship, and that struck the foremost of the ships of our squadron behind us. I saw the broad beam strike that ship squarely, saw it playing on and through it, and for a moment could see no effect apparent. Then, as the great pale beam played across the ship in a swift slicing sweep, I saw that as it shone through that ship's pilot room the figures inside it suddenly vanished! The next movement the ship had suddenly driven crazily off into space, whirling blindly away without occupant or crew, all life in it wiped instantly from existence by that terrible death-beam that had played through it!
From Crashing Suns, by Edmond Hamilton.
Published by Popular Fiction Publishing Co. in 1928
Additional resources -

Compare to the heat ray from H.G. Wells' 1898 novel War of the Worlds, and the Wunderland treatymaker from Larry Niven's 1980 novel Ringworld Engineers.

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