Killdozer Wins 1945 Retro Hugo Award for Best Novella

August 11, 2020

Winner of 1945 Retro Hugo Award for Best Novella

 

Learn more about other film and literature on teleoperation here Teleoperation and more about the science in  Chapter 1: Telesystems: “Stranger in Paradise” in RTSF: AI Explained Through Six Classic Robot Short Stories and Chapter 5: Telesystems in Intro to AI Robotics 2 ed.
 

 

Killdozer by Theodore Sturgeon is a 1944 short story that was made into a 1974 movie with ruggedly handsome Clint Walker as a construction foreman and a very young Robert Ulrich as the red shirt.

 

 

A group of men are doing some type of construction on a deserted island when one of the bulldozers moves an odd, metallic rock. The alien inside the rock possesses the dozer and begins to kill the men. The men assume something is teleoperating it (from a scientific perspective alien possession is a type of telepresence, though it could be considered the alien is using the bulldozer as a piloted mecha type of exoskeleton), something that never needs gas for refuelling. We never get anything from the alien’s POV- why is it killing everyone? What is it planning to do with a bulldozer on a deserted island?

 

The movie is neither good nor bad- it isn’t campy like Maximum Overdrive but is slow, linear, and ultimately...boring.

 

In real life, bulldozers can be converted to teleoperation with a small box consisting of a controller, a camera, and a wifi connection- such devices are called appliques because you are adding or overlaying an existing something with something else. The appliques were heavily used at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident to refit dozers to start clearing paths to the plants and to mound dirt over radioactive materials. 
 

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