In SFF world, I keep seeing chained destruction/ deactivation of an army similar to how individual nodes in a network of a mainframe go down because of a virus. For example:

  • In Avengers movie, when Ironman nuked the Chitauri mothership, Chitauri army on Earth died.

  • In Star Wars: The Phantom Menace movie, when Anakin destroyed the droid control center in space, the separatist droid army on Naboo got deactivated.

  • In recent episode S08E03 of Game of Thrones (which motivated this question),

    when Arya Stark killed the Night King, all of the White Walkers died.

Which SFF work first showed this?

  • Please, re-phrase the title so that it can reflect the question content more clearly. – Lobo Apr 30 at 12:53
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    Proposition: "where did the 'master element/mothership dies, all minions follow' trope originate?" But I'm not overly happy with that result so leaving it as a suggestion – Jenayah Apr 30 at 13:09
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    Hmmm I wonder what that spoiler could be? Did Jon Snow get killed and all the humans died? hmmm lol – Azor Ahai Apr 30 at 16:41
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    Conceivably Daenerys could have been killed and all the dragons died, or maybe Bran got killed and all the animals he was controlling died. – Adamant Apr 30 at 17:34
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Since nobody has jumped in with anything better, and I haven't found anything older in a quick search, I'm going to suggest Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers (1959).

The "brain bugs" control the warrior and worker bugs, and killing a brain bug will cause the workers and warriors under its control to at least lose conscious volition if it doesn't immediately kill them. (I don't know that its clear if they simply die, or just freeze until they collapse and die.)

In the tunnels under Klendathau, Sergeant Zim grabs a brain bug and uses it as a shield because the warriors can't shoot it without "committing suicide."

(It's not a single point of failure for the entire race, but for a single colony at least.)


I'll suggest that the destruction of the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings (specifically Return of the King published in 1954), which caused Sauron to fall into nothingness. When he did, his armies of orcs and trolls lost the will to fight and were easily destroyed, and his stronghold of Barad-dûr collapsed.

  • The first one I thought of. – Spencer Apr 30 at 23:35

Since your seem happy to accept deactivated droids I offer as a real obscure example the 1979 (so beating Ender Game by a few years) German young adult novel "Notsignal aus dem All" (part of a series called "Weltraum-Tramps") by one Ralph Henders (almost certainly a pen name, and certainly not a good book by any description), published by Egmont-Ehapa.

An evil AI uses an army of converted domestic robots to oppress the alien people that have constructed it, and when it's disabled by the eponymous "Space Tramps" the robot army shuts down.

I don't think any reviews or anything exist, only a few offers for used copies.

Even back then this seemed like a trope, so I am pretty sure there must be a lot of earlier examples.

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    The brain "IT" in A Wrinkle in Time (1962), except I've already suggested something from 1959. – DavidW Apr 30 at 13:59
  • @DavidW, please make these answers, not comments. – Eike Pierstorff Apr 30 at 14:04

1985 Ender's game

A classic work that includes a scenario like this is Ender's game by Orson Scott Card, published in 1985.

I'm not certain if that's the first one, but it's a good starting point so we'd need to look at early SFF and ignore the most recent thirty years or so.

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    Starship Troopers (1959) - with the "brain bugs" - predates this by more than 25 years. – DavidW Apr 30 at 13:47

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