My fifth novel, Dun Ringill, is nearly complete. All that remains are one or two more chapters, and an epilogue. Though I’ve been working on it in earnest for over a year, I only recently stumbled upon a bit of information that I wanted to share.
Some of you already know that Dun Ringill is a real place, an approximately 2,000 year old fort on the Island of Skye off of Scotland.
I was inspired to name my book after it because of its reference in a song by Jethro Tull, the progressive rock group introduced to me by my mother at a young age. Most of Tull’s lyrics were written by its frontman, Ian Anderson, who lived near Dun Ringill during some of his youth. Anderson’s recurring themes are rife with references to the ancient peoples of England, their culture, and rituals. They are all explored in depth on the outstanding fan website Cup of Wonder,
Including, of course, Dun Ringill itself, from the album Stormwatch.
Though often inscrutable, Anderson’s lyrics are not always difficult to decipher, and Dun Ringill’s meaning is fairly easy to discern if you know the history behind the ancient structure. Though in reality the fort probably has no special meaning other than a defensive position that long ago became obsolete, it inspired me to research other ancient English structures that almost certainly did, including the most famous, Stonehenge. In fact, many ancient structures in England feature astronomical alignments at significant times of the year (solstices and equinoxes, most notably). Whether built merely for utility or for a ritualistic purpose, people who visit these places often remark on there being a peculiar feel to them, probably the same sense of mystery that Anderson himself experienced at Dun Ringill.
It was while researching these places that I learned about cursus lines, man-made ditches, barrows, or earthenworks put in place thousands of years ago for unknown purposes:
I thought these were interesting enough to apply them in a practical way to the science fiction of my novel. However, I also decided to use them because I suspected that one of Anderson’s lines from Dun Ringill, lines joint in faint dischord, referred to cursus lines and their possible importance in ancient rituals. As courses constructed by people who may have believed that some kind of mystical power flowed through them, they are related to the pseudoscience of ley lines:
But are things like this what Anderson was really referring to in the song Dun Ringill? I wasn’t sure until I started studying the lyrics of Jethro Tull songs that weren’t my favorites, either growing up or today. So, it was just last week that I came across an explicit reference to ley lines in the song Cup of Wonder itself.
For the May Day is the great day, sung along the Old Straight Track. And those who ancient lines did lay will heed the song that calls them back.
If you looked at the Wikipedia article I linked above, you may have noticed that The Old Straight Track was the first published book on ley lines.
Still, despite that I could have answered my own question a long time ago by being more familiar with Jethro Tull’s discography, I was elated to learn of this relationship. Maybe this makes me a verifiable Turbo Nerd but this revelation sent chills down my spine.
In all of my writing, I’ve been inspired by astronomy, ancient legends, and music. Whether any of this translates into good science fiction is certainly up to the reader, but the fact that it keeps me going back to the page is good enough for me. However, now that my characters are about to finally solve the mystery of Dun Ringill, it seems that I have, too.