January 13, 2014

Outlander Fever

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

In Los Angeles this week and next, the Television Critics Association (TCA) is having the winter edition of it’s two-week conference wherein television shows present their shiny trailers and shinier cast for panels and interviews of the season ahead. For a TV junkie like me, this is two-weeks of delayed gratification as I suck up each tidbit on favorites such as Orphan Black and Game of Thrones.


For those of you living in a romance-deprived cave (poor dears), Ronald Moore, who brilliantly rebooted Battlestar Galactica some years ago,  is now bringing to life Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander opus as a television series for the Starz premiere cable channel. Over the years since the first, original Outlander novel was published, many have toyed with interpreting it for the screen, mostly as a feature film. This has always scared the pattrach outta me.

Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe)
Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe)

I came to the Outlander craze late (and by that, I mean mid-90s late not last year late) because I don’t like time travel stories because the initial conceit doesn’t track for me. If you go back in time and travel forward, you will eventually reach the point in time in which you went back in time and traveled forward to reach the point in time when you went back in time and traveled forward… Time is not cyclical and so this paradox (only one of many) has long kept me from enjoying time-travel romances. As a history buff, particularly for all things Celtic, this aversion to time-travel romance was an anathema as a quick trip to ye olden times would be the best holiday ever in my books, so long as I could take penicillin and soap with me. But with the exception of Jude Devereux’s  A Knight in Shining Armour, which I adored in spite of myself, time-travel romance was not for me.

Jamie takes a beating from Black Jack
Jamie takes a beating from Black Jack

Until Outlander.

I picked up a discounted copy in the book shop in Clinton, NJ and haven’t looked back since. Years later, I wound up working for what was then Bantam Dell Publishers at Random House, the publishers of the Outlander series, and was involved in the re-packaging program that accompanied the arrival of the then newest volume, The Fiery Cross. I’ve read every book in the series several times and even spent days uploading the unabridged audiobooks onto my iPod (24 discs was the smallest amount for one book) and have listened to all of them. I am, in short, an uber-fan.

It’s the characters, you see. James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser and Claire Beauchamp Randall. While many, including the author Diana Gabaldon, claim Outlander is not a romance, it  most certainly is romantic historical fiction as the relationship and love between these two characters is the cornerstone of the entire series. It’s not easy, it’s rarely pretty, and they do really terrible things to each other over the course of what is now seven books not counting the spin offs (the eighth book arrives in June). And yet the depth of their love is such that literally crosses the barriers of time. Naturally, to me, no one could possibly manifest these characters on screen, no film could possibly do justice to this epic tale that has captured so many millions of fans over the years. Outlander is bloody, and angsty, and often very hard to read but it’s also emotional and really, really sexy, and beautiful and will break your heart in such a way that you’ll hurry up to have it happen all over again. No way a film could do all that proper justice.

Jamie at Lallybrock
Jamie at Lallybroch

Well, by the look of things from the TCAs this week, I was wrong.

Ron Moore is making a series, not a feature film. Thank you Game of Thrones for paving that way. Instead of a one-shot, two-hour movie and then a long wait over several years for the next one, we get a full season of a show (at least) for each book and the promise of more within the year. He’s filming it in Scotland so no cheating on the ambiance and he took the time to find the right people to inhabit Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and not only physically (though he pretty much hit the mark there). Moore embraces the fandom; he knows how important this series is to them (us) and he and the production have made pains to include the fans in the process.

Which is what happened Saturday.

Ron Moore and Diana Gabaldon along with stars Caitriona Balfe and  Sam Heughan first did a panel for the critics and then went on to do a major fan-event that included art work from the production team that made me gasp aloud, the news that the great composer Bear McCreary will be scoring the series (as he did Moore’s Battlestar Galactica) and a full-fledged trailer!!! Caitriona and Sam are ridiculously charming as can be seen in these snippets from the panel. But that trailer…oh my giddy aunt.

I’m hooked. I’m totally in. I cannot wait for the debut of what promises to be a faithful interpretation of a story that has fascinated me for twenty years. I am so ready to fall through the magic in those Standing Stones all over again.

Are you Outlandish? Have you read the books? If so, what are you most excited to see come to life on the screen from the series?

For more Outlander goodness, visit the official Starz Channel Outlander page

For more detailed tidbits from the fan event panel, check out Heroes and Heartbreakers play by play breakdown.

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  • Post authorLizEverly

    I LOVE the series. I think Jamie is one my favorite lead male characters ever.

    Reply to LizEverly
  • Post authorElizabeth Shore

    I know I’m in the massive minority, but I just couldn’t get into this book. I tried. I really tried. I’m like Kiersten in that as a general rule, I don’t like time travels. The whole premise of a character being agog at all the stuff that used to happen in the past just downright bores me. But because so many people loved it I gave it a try, I slogged my way through Outlander and couldn’t wait until it was over. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll watch the series nevertheless. Perhaps it’ll give me inspiration to try again.

    Reply to Elizabeth Shore
  • Post authorMadeline Iva

    The first book had my eyes popping out of my head when I borrowed it from a neighbor. “Oh you’re going to try writing romances. Then you have to read *this*.”

    Time travel? Really? And the shocks did not stop coming. I guess for me story telling is when you make your reader’s eyes want to pop out of her head. And Outlander did that for me.

    Reply to Madeline Iva
  • Post authorAlexa Day

    I don’t remember how I found out about Outlander, but I found it at the library while I was trying to survive law school. That was the first time I had to slow myself down to make the book last longer.

    This series is going to be awesome with so many Galactica folk working on it! (I gasped when I read Bear McCreary, too.) But I hate to tempt myself with the trailer because I don’t have Starz. I just feel like that’s going to be painful for me.

    Reply to Alexa Day
  • Post authorAuthor Charmaine Gordon

    Even with ‘penicillin and soap’-I cracked up when I read that, thanks-time travel is not for me. I prefer realism in today’s world. To each her own. I did enjoy your post and love your enthusiasm for all things Celtic.

    Reply to Author Charmaine Gordon
  • Post authorKiersten Hallie Krum

    Thanks all for the great comments. I’ll admit the series swerves off in the later volumes (The Gathering in [i]Fiery Cross[/i] with the endless home remedies for children and diaper changing for example), but time and again, the story of Jamie and Claire pulls me back in. Can’t wait for the series. Plan to order Starz especially just to see it

    Reply to Kiersten Hallie Krum
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