Argent

[SPOILERS] Calamity

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A comment in a different thread got me thinking - Brandon is well known for his early foundations and science-like magic systems, so why don't we try to figure out something about Calamity? Let's start with what we know:

  • It appeared (about) a decade ago in the sky.
  • It presumably looks like a big, bright, red star - not as big as the sun, but not as small as the night sky stars, though the size thing is a guess.
  • It shines through Nightwielder's cover of darkness in Newcago, even as the Sun fails to do. It is presumably less luminous - I personally feel somebody would've mentioned it if it were brighter than the Sun.
  • It transforms, or is related to the transformation of, seemingly (but not necessarily) random people into Epics. The transformation itself is presumed to be relatively quick and seems to be genetic. I am curious to find out whether the swift mitochondrial death the Epics experience after they die is something unique to them, or whether they share it with humans/animals (somebody with background in the field should be able to answer this).

Anything major I am missing?

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I think it mentioned mitochondrial change and then rapid decay, rather than just quick death. What else you have missed...

 

The power given by Calamity turns Epics evil/immoral. Epics that can give the power away may or may not be  immoral while the power is bestowed on humans. Giving it to the same human appears to warp psyche of that human. This may imply that Calamity is, in some way, sentient, and imposes its worldview on Epics.

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I actually don't think that gifting a power has any "evil-inducing" effects on normal humans. It seems to warp the Epics fairly quickly. Like within a few minutes. However the team used the tensors for hours while they were prepping the stadium and didn't seem any worse for the wear. Someone made an argument that David was having some delusions of grandeur, but it was slight enough that it could really go either way.

 

On the other hand it was fairly well accepted that the diggers went utterly insane. 

 

On the other other hand, we haven't seen any ill effects from Conflux gifting his powers either.

 

Conclusion being we can't assume gifted powers warp normal humans. Not yet anyway.

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Well, I based that bit on this quote:

“I have to split it up among you,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to … seep into you as quickly as it does me. But if I give it all to one person, they’ll change.”

The whole team used tensors, and Conflux powered the whole city, so the effect would be minimal. Diggers may have gone mad for any other reason.

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Wow I utterly do not recall that quote. Already time for a reread I guess.

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I'm hesitant to start meta-ing Sanderson, but given the trends, it seems unlikely Calamity (assuming it's responsible) is a being of simple evil. Recalling the ideals of David's father, it seems likely that what the plot is working towards is a good Epic, through means currently unknown.

 

The primary question is why does using power cause the side effect of arrogance? Operating under the idea that this magic system is grounded in fantasy-science. No demons influencing the pure human minds here.

 

Calamity is an entity related to the powers, but presumably has little to do with the eventual ripples through society.

1) Floating thing in ths sky = ALIENS

 

2) It's hinted that researchers caused this to begin with. So they probably caused Calamity too... Space- virus - vector ? The fact we can see it during day (and during nightwielder's night) suggests it's pretty close to earth, close enough to sprinkle some special genetic fairy dust. GIven the general 'science' aspect of the superpowers, it probably isn't just a magical light that shines through because magic.

 

3) It's suggested that a genetic change was caused in the Epics by Calamity... but, the red thing is still in the sky. Why is it still there? Would taking it away remove the powers? Is Calamity constantly maintaining the Epic's powers?

     +The Prof's "inventions" have been shown to be a gifting of his powers, so it's entirely possible the green-laser-ray and other such pieces of "technology" are also just stored bits of power.

          +Still, scientists are collecting Epic DNA. If they cannot use it to produce epic-tech, then I'd assume they are looking for markers that explain why certain people are affected, and perhaps why it causes a personality change. Secret unknown labs somehow operating under the noses of the Epics sounds kind of sinister. Could an Epic be sponsoring the research?

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From the descriptions given in the text, Calamity seems to be visible as a fixed point in the sky from Newcago. Does that mean that someone on the opposite side of the planet, say Australia, wouldn't be able to see Calamity at all?

 

If so, would they have any Epics? I don't remember any mention of Epics outside of America and Europe.

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+Still, scientists are collecting Epic DNA. If they cannot use it to produce epic-tech, then I'd assume they are looking for markers that explain why certain people are affected, and perhaps why it causes a personality change. Secret unknown labs somehow operating under the noses of the Epics sounds kind of sinister. Could an Epic be sponsoring the research?

Did it say that creating technology based on Epic powers was impossible? Because I'm pretty sure that the books said that all the cool new inventions like graviometrics (sp?) or that gauss gun were based off of Epic powers.
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I think of it like an alternate "bad ending" to the movie Contact. Humans receive an alien transmission telling them how to build a communications device. A government secretly builds it. Then they turn it on, and it goes all glowy red and becomes Calamity.

My evil side wants it to be an entertainment production, that Calamity records all the disasters the Epics cause, and aliens make reality TV out of it. It might double as war propaganda for them, trying to prove that other species are evil. So they'd pseudo-religiously frame it as a "test" for any species worthy to use the powers, but they don't intend anyone to actually be worthy; they just want to watch them kill each other on TV, while being convinced of their own superiority.

... and I think this is going out of theory territory and into fan fiction! But yeah I think it's aliens.

Edited by Morsk
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/> Did it say that creating technology based on Epic powers was impossible? Because I'm pretty sure that the books said that all the cool new inventions like graviometrics (sp?) or that gauss gun were based off of Epic powers.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say.

No, no one said creating technology based on Epic powers was impossible.

Yes, the books said the green-energy gun was based off of Epic powers.

What i'm saying is that since the tensors/ jacket/ healer were revealed to be a gifting of powers, and not tech, that it is *possible* that the other techs are also giftings. Because I'm pretty sure the books never mentioned how gifting works, so it might not require direct physical contact, and can instead use technology as a medium.

 

Edit: But yes, you're right about the graviometrics since Meghan used one.

Edited by LordCitrus
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What i'm saying is that since the tensors/ jacket/ healer were revealed to be a gifting of powers, and not tech, that it is *possible* that the other techs are also giftings. Because I'm pretty sure the books never mentioned how gifting works, so it might not require direct physical contact, and can instead use technology as a medium.

 

If that were the case, there would be no value to the mitochondrial DNA the Reckoners and others collect.

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If that were the case, there would be no value to the mitochondrial DNA the Reckoners and others collect.

I'm sure there are plenty of uses besides just simply extracting power from DNA.

 

They already have Epic detectors that work off of DNA presumably (blood test), why not go a step further? More samples for research could eventually lead to a power / weakness detection scheme.

 

How about understanding Calamity? I'd be interested to know what made the Epics so special to be the ones affected.

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They did a blog post about this over at the Tor website that has a lot of the same ideas but in a lot more sciencey detail if you want to check it out. It would be interesting to discuss but I don't want you guys to think I'm thieving someone else material  :P

 

 

Well, I based that bit on this quote:

The whole team used tensors, and Conflux powered the whole city, so the effect would be minimal. Diggers may have gone mad for any other reason.

(emphasis my own)

 

Also I love this. That is a thing I'd bet money on. Maybe not a lot of money as Brandon is known for being tricksy but yeah...

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I'm not sure what you're trying to say.

No, no one said creating technology based on Epic powers was impossible.

I must have misinterpreted what you were trying to say. What did you mean by this?

 

+Still, scientists are collecting Epic DNA. If they cannot use it to produce epic-tech, then I'd assume they are looking for markers that explain why certain people are affected, and perhaps why it causes a personality change. Secret unknown labs somehow operating under the noses of the Epics sounds kind of sinister. Could an Epic be sponsoring the research?

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Regardless of whatever else Calamity is, I'm certain that it's a weapon. The reason of my certainty is that it only affects humans. We haven't heard of any epic dogs flying around shooting lasers out of their eyes or leveling entire city blocks, so this thing was obviously targeted. Even if this is a test, it should still be construed as an attack because this interference completely decimated society as it was. A test is likely if the origin is extra terrestrial. Otherwise it would make more sense to target all humans and turn them all into Epics, then wait for them to die off or destroy all human advancement. Once the outcome was certain, they could turn Calamity off.

 

Actually, that still works. The Epics are destroying human advancement, even while they are to a lesser degree advancing it. If another wave of Epics rose to challenge the ones who stabilized society in certain sectors, it could force humanity into even further regression. This could be repeated as needed until humanity was basically forced back into the stone age, then they could just shut Calamity down and move in.

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While i know it's not in the cosmere, it sure seems like a shard. Maybe it's just his writing style. Think mistborn. 3 facets of the same magic system. One explained in each book. But all of them existed for all three books. Think how minor Vins earring was in the first book. We can't assume that we know everything about calamity. I think it's effecting everyone. We just know about epics.

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Calamity may be extra-dimensional. If either through science, or an outside agency, a hole was punched through to another dimension, this may create a stable rift. If that rift is omnipresent then it could always appear directly overhead anywhere in the world. The effects of the rift could be completely accidental.

 

By omnipresent, I mean that the actual rift is simply access to an extra dimension that our perceptions tell us lies directly overhead in the sky. This would allow for Calamity to be seen overhead in every country of the world simultaneously. The epics would be a result of alterations caused by an unknown type of radiation that affects life on earth. Only a small portion of humanity that has certain genetic markers would exhibit a reaction to this radiation.

 

The interesting thing about Calamity is that this may not be its first appearance. Red stars, and red comets have been a marker in human mythology for thousands of years as the bringers of doom. Perhaps in this world, this is the origin of the mythological gods of old.

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Here is a question I haven't seen anyone ask yet:

 

Why is it called Calamity?

 

If evil epics started appearing immediately after the red star-like thing appeared in the sky it would make perfect sense, but there was a delay of about a year between Calamity's appearance and the epics.

 

Are we missing part of the story?

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  • It appeared (about) a decade ago in the sky.

 

Thirteen years, specifically.  Annexation Day occured ten years before the story.  On Annexation Day, the loan officer at the bank tells David's father that epics have been around for two years.  And somewhere in the book it mentions that Calamity appeared a year before the first epic did.  So thirteen years, give or take.

 

Why is it called Calamity?

 

If evil epics started appearing immediately after the red star-like thing appeared in the sky it would make perfect sense, but there was a delay of about a year between Calamity's appearance and the epics.

 

Are we missing part of the story?

 

iirc, there's no explicit link provided between Calamity and the epics.  But epics appeared roughly a year after Calamity did, so it's hard to avoid drawing conclusions.  And because the epics were universally sociopathic, people likely associated Calamity with disaster.

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irc, there's no explicit link provided between Calamity and the epics.  But epics appeared roughly a year after Calamity did, so it's hard to avoid drawing conclusions.  And because the epics were universally sociopathic, people likely associated Calamity with disaster.

 

Sorry, I think I was unclear.

 

For the first year after Calamity's appearance there were no epics.  Life continued normally for a time (as far as I know).  During that time however, people would have come up with a name for the strange star in the sky.  It seems odd that they would settle on Calamity because (briefly) there is nothing calamitous happening.

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This is Joe Jacobs with CNN,

 

Tonight, the Capital building was destroyed by an epic known as Devastator. This is just the latest disaster to strike our country. Top scientists have determined that these Calamitous events are the result of (change camera to the red light in the sky) the very same atmospheric anomaly that appeared in our skies one year ago.

 

Bob Preston with Fox News,

 

Calamity strikes again as two epics fight over control of the Miami Dade area of Florida. Casualties are reported to be in the thousands. The epics, reportedly known as Spotlight and Infernis were responsible for the destruction of more than two thirds of the metro area before they both abandoned the field and disappeared.

 

This is Tammy Thompson with ABC breaking news,

 

It has been confirmed by the scientific community that Calamity is responsible for the rise of the epic menace. (Quickly switches to a view of Calamity, then switches camera back to Tammy) Over the past few months, more and more epics have been rising and causing mayhem in our great nation. Now that the leaders of the scientific community know what is causing these changes, they are certain that they can find a solution to the epic menace.

 

This is John Hambly with NBC News,

 

It has been three years since Calamity appeared in our skies, and still we have found no solution to this unnatural anomaly that has...(feed cuts out)

 

This is the President of the United States of America,

 

Since the rise of Calamity we have been fighting a losing battle against the epics that have risen in our midst. It is with deep sorrow that I have to inform you, the people of America that we have no solution. We lack the ability to challenge these epics, and have been forced to cede territory to them repeatedly or sacrifice the lives of good hard working Americans in our effort to combat them. I am here today to tell you that the war is over. Our government will continue to function as best it can in the face of this crisis, but we lack the ability to continue to fight for those areas that have been annexed by epics. I am sorry, I have failed you. God bless you all.

 

This seems like a pretty reasonable way that the light in the sky could have been named Calamity even though it had appeared a year prior to the rise of any epics.

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I suppose it is possible that Calamity did not receive its name until after epics started appearing, but what did they call the thing in the mean time?

 

The way I see it there are three possibilities

 

1. Calamity went without a name for a full year before it was given any kind of name.  Given how much people like to have names for things I think this is unlikely.

 

2. Calamity went by a different name, and people started calling it something different before Epics started to appear.  This may be possible, but people usually need some kind of reason to change the name of something.

 

3. People began calling the thing Calamity for some other reason then the Epics.

 

In either the second or the third case there is some part of the story of the rise of the Epics that we have not seen yet.  David specifically says at one point that he does not care how the Epics get their powers, so it makes sense that this does not come up in the book.

 

I just want to know what that story is.

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I'm sure it was called something as well. We love to name things. It probably wasn't anything very clever though or the name would have been harder to displace.

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I suppose it is possible that Calamity did not receive its name until after epics started appearing, but what did they call the thing in the mean time?

I figured that science types probably had some fancy name for it, full of numbers and whatnot, similar to how we catalog stars or planets. I can't imagine people would have been too interested in it, most of the astronomy stories that get much attention are either asteroid-impact scares or talk of alien life. It does hinge on where Calamity is located though. David mentioned that it's always in the same spot in the sky, which implies geosynchronous orbit. If something was orbiting the Earth like that, and it wasn't some top-secret government thing, then the public would likely care and probably would have come up with a name for it.

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I think it was named, but the name was either easily discarded and replaced, or it was as you said and the name the media insisted on using was scientific Jargon. Probably a lame name based on the scientific name. Like Argo765b12 would just be referred to as Argo by the media after a few weeks. People don't really get attached to names that are just place holders, but give them a name that means something to them and they will hold onto it tenaciously.

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