My Sun Song Trilogy is set in 2089 in an altered world; a world divided between the small Privileged class and their native slaves. The main characters in the novels are Sorlie, a sixteen year old Privileged boy and Ishbel, his 21 year old native slave. Sorlie has a normal teenager’s life until one day something happens to his parents and Ishbel takes him to live with his tyrant grandfather, Davie, on the penitentiary island of Black Rock. Most of the action for the first novel takes place on Black Rock Island but before Sorlie’s father disappeared he told the boy of Freedom, an island in the Atlantic archipelago from where Sorlie’s grandmother, Vanora, leads her Revolutionary Army.
The idea for the original story came to me in a dream but as soon as I began writing I realised that the story would need to be set in the future but reflect what was happening in today’s world. I took two things that worry me, climate change and the rise of right wing politics. I asked myself ‘what if we continued on this path, what would my world look like in 2089?’
The main setting, Black Rock Penitentiary, could have been anywhere but while on holiday, as I stood on the western shores of North Uist and looked across at the mysterious islands of St Kilda, I knew this would be a perfect setting. The inhabitants of St Kilda, cut off from civilisation, were almost totally self-sufficient. Most of their food, heating and lighting came from the seabirds they caught on their cliffs. In 1930 the inhabitants were permanently evacuated because their resources had become depleted and they suffered great hardship. Archive photos of the St Kilda inhabitants show people obviously miserable with their lot. The main island became a military base in 1957. I saw many parallels between St Kilda and the world of diminishing resources I created for my trilogy.
I have never visited St Kilda, but the landscape I imagined outside the walls of the prison can also be found in the ruined croft sites from the Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th century, when wealthy landowners cleared crofters from the land and burned their homes to make way for sporting estates and sheep. ‘Ruin’ is said to be the most commonly used word on the Ordnance Survey maps of Scotland so there are plenty of sites to choose from particularly around the west coast and the island of Skye and Mull. The Highland Clearance is a perfect example of the history of oppression on one section of society by another.
I believe that in any society, in any age, there will be always be one group who is oppressed. In my 2089 world the Privileged class rule over the natives who are Celts. Celts were one of the first immigrants to Scotland, in fact my own family came from Ireland during the potato famine of 1800s and at the time the Irish were treated very badly.
To fully prepare for writing of this oppressed society I had invented I read many history books. A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn lists atrocity after atrocity from when Columbus first landed in the Bahamas in 1492 to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
Probably the most heart-breaking book I’ve ever read is Dee Brown’s Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee about the treatment of the Native American at the hands of white settlers and the US government. I also read The Diary of David Sierakowiak – Five notebooks from the Łódź Ghetto. The Łódź Ghetto was established by the Germans in 1939 after their invasion of Poland to house Polish Jews and Roma. The conditions of deprivation and starvation described in these history books gave me a background into genuine community suffering.
Another WWII story I drew on for my novels was the story of The Shetland Bus. The Shetland Bus was a clandestine operation managed out of the Shetland Islands form 1941 to 1945 to create a permanent link between Shetland and German occupied Norway. Small fishing boats and sometimes submarines were used to drop spies behind enemy lines or aide people escaping occupied territory. After I visited the Shetland Islands I realised that its remote location is why it was chosen as a secret station and I decided to base my fictional revolutionary army there and call it Freedom.
The Native Freedom Fighters of my novels are led by main protagonist Sorlie’s grandmother, Vanora. Her base, Freedom, features in all three novels. Boats called Moorloggers and decommissioned nuclear submarines carry out the transport to and from Freedom. Vanora’s command centre is a house under which a huge subterranean bunker houses all operations. She has a panopticon room with a ticker wall in the middle managing her communications network and a warren of other rooms to accommodate her engineers. While on Shetland I visited Lunna House, where the real operations were coordinated by the British army. I took a photo of it and used it as my image to help me visualise where Vanora’s command centre lay.
I believe that to create an authentic future world it is essential to examine history. I would like to think that we can learn from history but based on my own studies for this trilogy, it seems that is hopeful thinking.
About The Sun Song Trilogy
Book #1 Ways of the Doomed
It’s the year 2089 and everything is altered. The revolutions of the early 21st century have created a world divided – between the Privileged few and the Native (Celtic) underclass. Sorlie is enjoying a typical carefree Privileged teenage life until it is smashed apart by the cruel death of his parents and he is spirited away to live with his ice-cold grandfather at a mysterious island penal colony. Sorlie’s discovery that the captives are being genetically altered to remove all trace of their Native origins triggers a chain of shocking events that reveal his grandfather’s terrible secrets and, ultimately, the truth about himself.
Book #2 Wants of the Silent
The second thrilling volume of the Sun Song trilogy takes Sorlie to the floodlands of southern Esperaneo to discover that family, love and resilience can triumph against even the harshest regime. Escaping from the penal colony on Black Rock, Sorlie joins his grandmother Vanora’s revolutionary army, expecting to find freedom. Instead he finds murder and mayhem. With her army in disarray and her network of supporters disappearing, Vanora chooses Sorlie to become her warrior. When Vanora is kidnapped, Sorlie becomes injured and marooned in the strange reservation of Steadie where old people and specials are hidden and protected from The State. But these outcasts are not the only secrets Steadie keeps. Why is Sorlie kept drugged for over a week? What are their links to The Blue Pearl Society? Why are they so wary of the Noiri black marketeers? And who is The Prince everyone is whispering about?
Book #3 Star of Hope
The third and final exciting volume of The Sun Song Trilogy finds Sorlie and Ishbel working together in one last attempt to save Esperaneo. As The Prince’s health deteriorates he hands over leadership of the Star of Hope’s mission to Sorlie and Ishbel. But what is the Star of Hope? All they know is that it will free the native race from slavery. On mainland Esperaneo Major, Ishbel travels north through a hostile artic forest while Sorlie, Reinya and Dawdle head for the southern dry lands. On the way both parties battle extreme weather and betrayal, but it is only when the two missions meet that the frightening truth of their world is revealed. And one final betrayal decides the fate of the mission and their fight for freedom. The Sun Song trilogy explores life in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic Britain where society’s norms have broken down and life has to be lived differently.
This blog post originally appeared in Serendipity Reviews April 2019