In John Wyndham's classic apocalyptic novel The Day of the Triffids, events are put into motion by a double catastrophe: the mass blindness of nearly everyone on Earth, apparently caused by a meteor shower, coincides with the appearance of carnivorous plants which can kill people and which proceed, in the near absence of sighted people, to take over much of the world.

The triffids are perhaps the best known aspect of this story in popular culture, and their origins and nature are covered in detail in the novel, the main narrator character being something of an expert on them. They are a massive danger but at least well understood. But the mass blindness, although it's the main catastrophe that puts everything into motion, is more of a mystery. Why would a meteor shower make everyone blind? I recall one conversation between Bill and Jo where they speculate about what might really have caused it, but that's all.

What is the cause of the blindness catastrophe? Or rather, what evidence do we have to support the different options here? Was it caused by extraterrestrial material in the meteors, or by human-manufactured weapons, either a deliberate attack or something accidentally triggered by the meteor shower? What evidence can we draw on either from the novel itself, from other Wyndham novels and his general style, or from other things he wrote about this novel?

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Some "shooting stars" have made everyone blind, as mentioned in the first chapters:

You'll find it in the records that on Tuesday, May 7, the Earth's orbit passed through a cloud of comet debris.

"D'you know what? I'm blind. Thash what I am- blind's a bat. Everybody's blind's a bat. 'Cept you. Why aren't you blind's a bat?" "I don't know," I told him. "'S that bloody comet. Thash what done it. Green shootin' shtarsh-an' now everyone's blind's a hat. D'ju shee green shootin' shtarsh?" "No," I admitted. "There you are. Proves it. You didn't see 'em: you aren't blind. Everyone else saw 'em"-he waved an expressive arm -"all's blind's bats. Bloody comets, I say." I poured myself a third brandy, wondering whether there might not be something in what he was saying. "Everyone blind?" I repeated. "Thash it. All of 'em. Prob'ly everyone in th'world-'cept you,' he added as an afterthought.

So what's wrong with those comets, or meteors, or shooting stars? There are some hints that they are human-made:

Sustained research in rocketry had at last succeeded in attaining one of its objectives. It had sent up a missile which stayed up. It was, in fact, possible to fire a rocket far enough up for it to fall into an orbit. Once there, it would continue to circle like a tiny moon, quite inactive and innocuous until the pressure on a button should give it the impulse to drop back, with devastating effect. Great as was the public concern which followed the triumphant announcement of the first nation to establish a satellite weapon satisfactorily, a still greater concern was felt over the failure of others to make any announcement at all, even when they were known to have had similar successes. It was by no means pleasant to realize that there was an unknown number of menaces up there over your head, quietly circling and circling until someone should arrange for them to drop-and that there was nothing to be done about them. Still, life has to go on-and novelty is a wonderfully short-lived thing. One became used to the idea perforce. From time to time there would be a panicky flare-up of expostulation when reports circulated that as well as satellites with atomic heads there were others with such things as crop diseases, cattle diseases, radioactive dusts, viruses, and infections not only of familiar kinds but brand-new sorts recently thought up in laboratories, all floating around up there.

Later on, the satellites are shown to be used for biological warfare:

A virulent organism, unstable enough to become harmless in the course of a few days (and who is to say that such could not be bred?), could be considered to have strategic uses if dropped in suitable spots.

And that's all that I could find in this (luckily not too long) book about what happens in space before the flash that blinds everyone.

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