Outlander Is The New Black

I’m not sure I’m ready for Outlander to be what everyone’s talking about

It’s been a month since RT (my fabulous, indulgent junket to New Orleans for the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention) and I am now officially in a reading slump.  Which also means a blogging slump; as usual, lack of focus and engagement with books from the TBR correlates with lack of time to write. June is always a crazy busy month at my job, and this coincides with jam-packed weekends full of end-of-school-and-sports activities. I’m having a hard time keeping track of which potluck item I’m bringing to which end-of-season celebration.
bnde5kwciaamognThen a couple of weeks ago there was a development at work which pushed me over the edge into a really bad cycle of stress, insomnia, and exhaustion. I realize my treatment of choice was probably ill-advised, but what I did was start watching Season 2 of Orange is the New Black, along with apparently most of the twitterverse. For anyone who may not know or care, this is Jenji Kohan’s (creator of Weeds) acclaimed prison drama (dramedy?) about a 30-something slacker yuppie hipster who ends up incarcerated for drug muling she unwisely but crazy-in-love did while she was in her 20’s. It’s one of those Netflix original productions that are only available via Netflix streaming, and which, although produced as 13-episode series like a standard television drama, become available to watch instantly, all at once, a whole “season” of shows.

So with insomnia and overall stress-induced lack of willpower in the mix, I was binge-watching 2, 3, even 4 episodes a night, during the week, way way into the wee hours. I watched the 90-minute “season finale” (do such terms have any meaning at all in the context of this type of immersive, rushed, viewing??) on Tuesday night, June 10, which was also release day for Diana Gabaldon’s much-anticipated 8th Outlander book, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. (I mean, I guess it’s much-anticipated. Is there a lot of buzz about the book outside the diehard fan forums? Seems like there’s been much more focus on the forthcoming Starz tv series… but I digress.)

I don’t have anything especially original to say about OITNB and its artistic merits, though it’s been fascinating to read some of the critical responses along with fun deconstructions of the show’s many pop culture references and homages. I have just been addictively watching the storylines unfold and allowing the mental escape into the detailed and nuanced exposition of a powerful collection of female protagonists that the show delivers, thanks to strong ensemble writing and acting.  I’m really only moved to post about this show because of a small moment in the final episode in which two powerful pop culture obsessions, one from my past and one from my present, collide.

A scene from Orange is the New Black: Two black women wearing prison garb standing in a library; one is holding a copy of Outlander.

Samira Wiley and Danielle Brooks, Netflix still, via examiner.com

The scene is about love, forgiveness, imagination, and authenticity. Two characters who have spent most of the season at odds, struggling to come to terms with each other in the context of a violent betrayal, are sorting books together in the prison library.  To say much more about the context would involve spoilers, but both Poussey (Samira Wiley) and Taystee (Danielle Brooks) have spent time sharing work detail in the library and here they are sorting books that have been water damaged by leaks during a tropical storm. In contrast to almost all of the other spaces in the prison, the library is colorful and suggests warmth and comfort. It’s the only space I noticed that has a carpet, it looks cleaner and less cold than many of the other spaces we see, except perhaps the kitchen, and it’s well-lit.  The inmates read a lot, and books are used as signifiers throughout the show, to the extent that there is an intriguing tumblr (Books of Orange Is The New Black) devoted to capturing each literary reference. (There’s even a post discussing whether the Leah Vincent book Alex is reading in the final episode of Season 2 is an ARC, because it was apparently not yet published at the time the episode was filmed; this cracked me up.)  The library is a place of ideas and emotion; the stacks and shelves of books themselves are the source of color, variety and fantasy in a bland prison world, and the rows and corners provide quiet and privacy for intense and personal conversations and exchanges.

This conversation, however, is playful, and it’s about reading for fun and pleasure. Poussey is stacking books in various stages of sogginess. Taystee grabs one from her — it’s a warped and waterlogged hardcover copy of Outlander.

Yo, shit, Outlander! You ever read this? Lady travels back in time, to Scotland and shit… she hooks up with this big sexy outlaw type and they be getting it…. day in and day out…! (Season 2, episode 13, about 1:04)

An enthusiastic time travel fantasy ensues in which we learn that Taystee doesn’t really fancy pale, pasty Scotsmen, however badass they are, and would prefer to go through the stones to an earlier time in Africa and get it on with a “Nubian king with a Nubian thing.” Take that, Jamie Fraser!

But later on we see her back in her bunk, with Outlander (presumably a re-read!). What do I make of this?  It’s just a moment, and it’s not as if there aren’t dozens of other books strewn about the landscape of this layered show. I thought I had spotted Taystee reading romance earlier in the season, and thanks to Books of Orange Is The New Black, it was easy to find out that indeed, she was reading Sinful Chocolate, by Adrianne Byrd. I thought it was hilarious when Piper got back to Litchfield from an unplanned visit to Chicago where she was required to testify in a drug case related to her own conviction, and went around grabbing back her books and possessions from the inmates who’d “adopted” them in her absence; it was all tasteful literary books like Orlando and Atonement.  But Taystee’s riff on Outlander was more than just the book showing up on somebody’s bunk.

Book cover: Outlander. A blue cover with gold lettering and thistle emblem.She is like every Outlander reader/fan I’ve ever met — the book was such an intense and memorable read that she can’t help herself, she has to (a) try and explain it and (b) try to pitch it to her friend. I love that she has no ambivalence, and boils the significance of the novel down to time travel, romance, and good sex.

Seeing this book as a cultural icon and touchpoint in the context of this hugely successful and widely acclaimed television series was a funny mash-up moment. Outlander is just such a peculiar institution — steadily, over 25 years since it was originally published in 1991, making its way from the relative obscurity of genre fiction, the RITA, and a pioneering early use of online communities, to international bestseller status and debates about whether it is or isn’t a romance novel, to a wildly uneven series of (also bestselling) epic novels, to an intense and prolific fandom obsessed with all things Scottish both online and IRL, to 2014 and the lavish big-budget mainstream Hollywood star treatment. Not that the actors of the Starz Outlander were big-budget mainstream stars before Ron Moore plucked them from relative obscurity, but that the Outlander phenomenon itself is (finally?) getting the star treatment, after decades of flirtation with various possible production partners.

I don’t know if the OITNB scene is sheer and shameless product placement, canny Summer 2014 zeitgeist texturing by the writers, or just a funny aside that provides shading for Taystee’s irrepressible, sometimes naive optimism.

I do know I’m not sure I’m ready for Outlander to be the story that everyone’s talking about.  I talked about this a little bit a few months ago when Jessica wrote a couple of great posts about her audio re-read of the book.  I commented how much I liked her post and my surprise to discover how much I enjoyed the opportunity to revisit Outlander and engage with it critically, without diminishing my prior experience as a very immersed reader and even an obsessed and prolific member of a fan forum at one time. I know it’s probably bad blogging etiquette to quote one’s own comment on another blog, but it would be weird to just say this again since it I posted these sentiments in a comment on Read React Review:

I’ll be honest – I was not expecting to enjoy much of anything about the fresh wave of Outlander commentary that’s coming with the Starz series and the new book. As you know, I came to online book discussions via Gabaldon fan forums (this was back in 2004, so not much earlier than your 2007). At first it was purely exhilarating to engage with other readers about the intense reading experience and these larger than life characters, then it grew exhausting in some ways, and when I felt the later books were inconsistent and disappointing, those were no longer the right forums for me. (The cycle of fandom… but that’s a topic for another time). At this point I feel simultaneously repelled by Outlander squee and compelled to follow and lurk, in spite of myself, whenever it comes up for serious discussion.

That was a few months ago.  I must have been extra cranky because I don’t think I’m actually feeling “repelled” by the Outlander buzz these days. But I’m still sort of skittish.  Another way I sometimes think about my relationship with this book is that the 2014 popularity of Outlander feels like bumping into an ex I was in an intense relationship with from about 2004-2009, who was crazy good fun but sort of intense, a little ridiculous, and whose antics eventually wore me out. This is not to say that I think it’s ridiculous to love Outlander, or to admire Gabaldon’s novels. It is not about a judgment of the book or its fans. I spent several years and devoted lots of time to Outlander fan forums engaging in deeply challenging and rich discussions with incredibly smart and thoughtful readers.

The series overall is very uneven, but the 4th novel, Drums of Autumn, is tight and beautiful and a complete DIK. This one has four main story arcs, and multiple POV, but it is well-structured and paced, almost seamless, and very moving. I sometimes wish people who stopped reading at Dragonfly in Amber or Voyager, had skipped ahead to book 4. I am not a re-reader, but I do re-read this one, and its epic and eloquent depiction of everyday life and social/political strife in 18th century rural America on the brink of war sparked and re-energized my lifelong interest in American history and the literature of and about the Revolution.

I think the thing that puzzles me is the level and intensity of my own fanhood, and then its dissipation and evaporation. How did I get from immersion to detachment? It’s not that I’ve completely abandoned Outlander, as have many who could not get past the second, or third, or fifth book (The Fiery Cross, with it’s 100-page opening day of rain and diapers is the one that really killed it for lots of people, I understand). I actually have read all of the principal books in the series, even up through 2009’s An Echo in the Bone, which I found at once deeply disappointing and intermittently delightful. For readers like me who have allowed themselves to become intimate with Jamie, Claire, John and the rest, there are bits of dialogue and scenes that one can’t help but read with sheer pleasure and relish. But the book overall is a mess of erratically paced and cobbled together sections of exhaustive research and explosively provocative plot developments. So I am still along for the ride, but it is almost with reluctance and certainly with detachment.

A dear friend and fellow Gabaldon reader texted me last week with surprise about Tuesday’s release day, wondering why we hadn’t been buzzing back and forth about the impending Written in My Own Heart’s Blood.  Neither of us had paid much attention to when the next installment would be available. I think it’s because we are ambivalent. How do I honor the special place in my heart for Jamie, John, Claire and (especially!) Ian, and keep reading, while harboring unease and lack of trust that the story will hold together and make sense?

These questions have preoccupied me for several years, whenever Outlander comes up in book discussions, even before the Starz series was announced and went into production. I was never the type of fan who wanted to insist on a certain actor for Jamie or Claire, and I only ever went so far in terms of the kilt fetish which is almost de rigueur in the fan community, so I only peripherally followed the hoopla around the casting of Hueghan and Balfe, the release of the first images of kilted Sam and Catriona with Claire’s wild hair. I haven’t watched any clips, and just the image of Jack Randall beating Jamie that was released as a still is enough to convince me that it’s going to be weird to watch a book I know so intimately brought to life onscreen in 16 detailed episodes. Some parts of the book were over the top to begin with, but perhaps that’s why people think it will make good television.  I’m really interested to see how they convincingly show Claire fighting off the wolf with her bare hands.

Now I wonder whether and what it will be like to find Outlander the subject of casual conversation with friends and co-workers. For a long time it has been part of my personal, private reading world, which is of course, not private in the sense that the discussions are taking place on the internet. I do have IRL friends who have read it, and/or are fans, but it really only comes up in conversation with people (women) who are pretty devoted readers, and usually not with litfic book group types of readers.  I have another good friend from the Outlander community(online friend to IRL friend; a testament to the power of online book discussions!) who reports regularly being met with disbelief and distaste when she brings up Gabaldon with her book group.

But now comes the big television event. Will it be a game changer, and in what ways? I haven’t ever forked over the cash to get a premium channel in my cable lineup — I am content to wait for shows like Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire to make their way to me via Netflix or other means. I haven’t figured out whether I will do the same with Outlander, or if it will be impossible for me not to engage with it as a weekly serial, in real time along with friends, fellow fans, and the twitterverse.

What do you think? Is it going to be big, like GoT and OITNB? Will it succeed in grabbing a mainstream audience of male and female fans? Will it continue to serve as a gateway to the romance genre for new fans who come to Outlander via the show, then find the books? Will I in fact find myself discussing the controversial wife beating scene with my co-workers over lunch? Like I said, I’m not sure I’m ready for that. But on the other hand, maybe it’s a breakthrough moment, and not just for the RITA-winning Best Romance of 1991.

 

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16 thoughts on “Outlander Is The New Black

  1. Dr. M says:

    Oh, Outlander. Will I never be able to resist you?

    Your post nailed my sentiments exactly. I haven’t started reading Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (MOBY) yet, but I have been rereading Echo in order to give it a second chance. I’m finding, however, that my initial reaction to the book–moments of jaw-dropping imagery and meticulous characterization tangled in a narrative mess–hasn’t changed and matches yours as well.

    But I have been following how Random House (DG’s publisher) and Starz are shaping fan expectations, and the nexus of these two efforts has exponentially increased the reference to Outlander in social media and in the entertainment press. Still, I was as taken by the mention of Outlander in OITNB as you were. I have no idea whether that was engineered by Random House or Starz, but even if it wasn’t, it suggests, as you rightly note, that Outlander is moving out of the circle of devoted fans into mainstream popular culture.

    One of the more interesting aspects of that move is the increased mantra I’m seeing in some of the blurbs I’ve read about the series: “Outlander is the new Game of Thrones.” This is not something Starz includes in its press releases, but the pairing of Diana Gabaldon with George R. R. Martin at high-viz public appearances (both are marquee players at the upcoming Edinburgh Book Festival) helps cultivate this comparison, as does the repeated references to graphic violence and sex in Outlander. If Outlander is as successful as Game of Thrones (though the 16-epsiode length of Outlander seems a bit long to me), then the books will, as you suggest, achieve another breakthrough moment.

    But that will be a curious moment for an author like Gabaldon who spends a fair amount of time controlling the interpretation of her books. A hugely popular television series based on her books means that the series writers will, eventually, take charge of the story, as they have with Martin’s books. If that happens, I’ll be eager to see how they tame Gabaldon’s narrative and avoid making the show simply a buffet of violence and sex.

    • pamela1740 says:

      First, I know I have been largely absent from Outlandish fandom for a while, but what is the deal with MOBY? Don’t the other books have literal acronyms, even silly ones like ABOSAA? My Own Heart’s Blood – shouldn’t it be MOHB? How do you feel about MOBY, Melville scholar? 🙂

      I agree about the parallels with George Martin, and I think Gabaldon has had her sights set on a GoT level of fame and repute for her series for quite a while, going back to much earlier in the series and a spirit of competition with GRRM for SFF book awards. I also agree that even if the show is, like Game of Thrones, faithful in delivering a quality adaptation, it will be much harder for Gabaldon to control interpretation of her stories once they are being delivered to a mass audience in a visual medium. This angle does remind me of one of the main reasons I became frustrated with deep analysis of the Outlander books — within the fan communities, one always comes up against “but DG says it means X” and there is (or at least used to be) an approach to literary analysis and interpretation that refuses to acknowledge the creation of meaning from the interaction of reader and text, from which the author, once the words are printed on the page, is absent.

  2. Nicola O. says:

    Funny, I love Outlander, but it pre-dates internet fandom for me. And I am not a super-fan: I’ve only read it once, I do not retain a strong memory of pivotal scenes, etc; my main takeaway is “Jamie and Claire, SIGH!” I do want to re-read Outlander but I am not likely to re-read any of the others. I just don’t have that kind of time these days. 🙂

    • pamela1740 says:

      I think I am going to pick one to re-read this summer – probably DRUMS. It’s not that I don’t love Outlander the book, I think it’s that I am no longer in love with Outlander the phenomenon. But I did read a review of the new book that suggests it may be much better than ECHO, so we’ll see…!

  3. HollyC says:

    I knew you would be thinking of the wolves – perhaps the dire wolves from GoT will moonlight on Starz. I am spending a lot of mental energy lately thinking about what it means that I’ve ordered MOBY ( but am not in a rush to read it), that I hope the tv series can be as faithful to the original as Game of Thrones has miraculously been ( as opposed to so many screen adaptations that are embarrassing), and that I don’t want to share my former obsession with the great big world full of genre snobs who will diss it ( book groups with delusions of being literary critics – am I your IRL friend? 🙂 )

    So can we really class Outlander as an ex boyfriend if it is still able to get such a reaction from us? I’m thinking it’s more like a wayward sibling – we see it’s faults – but no one else better point them out!

    It was a pretty powerful reading experience to leave such strong feelings years after the fact and despite the letdown in quality and plot developments in the last few books the Outlander saga has a place in my heart that leaves me feeling reluctant to share/defend it with people who did not fall under its spell.

    • pamela1740 says:

      Yes, of course it is your snooty book club I was thinking about!! I picture them all like Piper’s mum in OITNB, though I know that’s very unfair of me and they are all very good people who just don’t seem to like many of the books I like… 🙂

      Thanks for this great comment that captures the ambivalence about sharing the former obsession – there are so many possible ways it could go, from dismissive genre snob commentary to exhausting re-hashing of story elements I may just not have the energy to talk about anymore…

  4. kaetrin says:

    I’m listening to MOBY now and I have the book as well (and I even check the book when I want to see something written down to make better sense of it).

    I took 2 goes to read Outlander and in the end it was the audio which hooked me. Now I have them all in print form as well and even the first one as a digital book and the graphic novel and…

    Does that count as obsession? I went to her signing when she was in Adelaide for the release of Echo in the Bone – the first book signing I’ve ever been too.

    I’m slavering for the tv show but I also think it’s very likely I won’t be seeing it anytime soon here in Australia, which makes me sad but I shall suck it up because what can you do?

    I adore Jamie Fraser. And Ian and Roger Mac. I’m a hero-centric reader and they’re like catnip for me. I like Claire and Brianna and Rachel too of course but mostly, for me, it’s Jamie.

    The narration is just brilliant and I’ve found it’s covered a multitude of sins. When I’m listening or reading the series, I get caught up in the majesty of it. I find it an immersive experience in a way that feels rare for me. But when I step away from the books I can see that they’ve been edging toward soap opera territory and the violence (so many characters are raped in this series) is torture pornish now. I don’t think that was the case for the first book but as the series has progressed, the violence has seemed to me to be more and more gratuitious.

    Anime June from Gossamer Obsessions sums up Outlander thus: “everybody wants to fuck Jamie”. And, she’s not wrong, even though I love the book to bits. LOL

    I understand what you’re saying Pam though – right up until I started listening I was kind of pulling back, wondering whether I had the energy to be sucked back into the vortex. But now, I’m in it and lapping it up. Because hopeless. 😀

    • pamela1740 says:

      I am so happy to read your great comment this morning because it does for the first time in a while kind of edge me over to a happy place in terms of remembering what I did love so much about The Books. I think I may be a pretty hero-centric reader too, at least in the context of some series, and I completely agree with Anime June’s assessment of the Jamie factor. But for me it was also about the creation of a whole bunch of pretty appealing heroes – lots of people adore Roger Mac, of course, and for me it was Young Ian, John, and also Fergus, and their intense and beautifully rendered relationships with Jamie. That’s my dude group fetish coming out, probably! Many of my favorite scenes involve various pairings and permutations of the menfolk on a mission together or just talking about women and life. I also really loved the painful yet powerful Jamie/John relationship until I felt it was undermined and taken off the rails with some of the crazy, deliberately provocative after-the-fact back story in Lord John and The Brotherhood of the Blade. I was bothered by that book as a really clumsy depiction of John’s sexuality — I think he deserved so much better — so much that I still haven’t read The Scottish Prisoner.

      So, yes, ambivalence, but there is still a lot of power in them there stories!

  5. Fascinating post, Pamela. I haven’t watched OITNB the TV show and I quite Gabaldon after skimming Drums of Autumn. I’ll believe you that it is the best put together of the series, but I was so worn down by the increasing wordcounts, the violence, and what was starting to feel like fan-service, that I just gave up. I bought The Fiery Cross in hardcover but never read it and I think I finally gave it away. (I’m not saying that the book WAS engaging in fan-service, just that I couldn’t see the point of lots of stuff if that wasn’t it.)

    All that is by way of saying that the theme of your post resonates for me more than the specific cases under discussion.

    I think many of us who have been passionately attached to something that was obscure or privately enjoyed have very mixed feelings when that thing takes off. It happens with books and authors, but also with music and art, at least I’ve experienced it with those as well. My experience is that it’s gratifying in some ways but unsettling in others. Not much help, am I?

    Nowadays, though, it’s almost impossible for our pleasures not to be subjected to monetizing efforts, and if they strike a chord then they spiral into the profit/publicity stratosphere pretty fast. I was never a huge fan of the GoT novels, but I read them and agonized over the wait and looked forward hugely to the show. Then it came, I was just as hugely disappointed, and now the books are basically purged from my sense-memory; it’s impossible for me to think of them in the same way that I did as I was reading them.

    It seems to be a knock-on effect of monetizing social interactions; most of the pleasures you’re talking about were fan-initiated and fan-driven. Now these activities are almost impossible to segregate from the industry-sponsored social-media juggernauts. My guess is that if the series is well produced then it will take off, maybe not at GoT levels but sufficiently that it will be hard to avoid or control exposure to the hype.

    • pamela1740 says:

      Thanks for articulating these broader connections! I couldn’t quite grasp words around the “obscure or privately enjoyed” piece, but that’s the perfect way to put it. As you can see from some of my other comments/responding to Kaetrin’s good persepctive, in some ways I feel like Gabaldon has been a one-woman social media juggernaut from the beginning, even before there were formal platforms like twitter to support the behavior/activity. So perhaps for me the task of managing my own response to the hype and hoopla, engaging, disengaging, etc., has always been part of the complex and at times intense relationship with these books. It certainly feels BIGGER now, though, with high-end production imagery of scenes and characters almost unavoidably available to alter/shift the sense-memories.

  6. Kaetrin says:

    Slightly off topic, perhaps, but I wanted to add that I thought Gabaldon had been really clever in keeping interest alive in the long wait between Echo and MOBY*. I follow her on Twitter and most days she tweets a litle from her WIP. I didn’t see every day and some snippets were repeated a few times but it was enough to keep me interested in it – particularly the bits with Jamie and Claire – especially because things were a bit up in the air between them at the end of Echo. I never found it too much or intrusive. I could engage at whatever level I wanted. It was only 1 tweet per day at most but it did keep my energy and interest ticking along at a slow burn in between.

    *MOBY is the nickname DG gave to the book after her brain made the connection between MyOwnheartsBlood and visual reminder of the singer Moby. So, it’s been #MOBY for ages on Twitter now. 🙂

    • pamela1740 says:

      I’ve always been very interested in the way Gabaldon harnesses the power of the online fan community and this is a great example. Jessie (@RomanceProf) is much more well-versed than I am about particular examples, but it didn’t take very long in any of the fan forums to become aware that “Herself” is a frequent participant and contributor to the online discourse around her books. Since everyone has the option to follow or not on Twitter, I agree if you choose to follow, a daily tweet from a WIP isn’t intrusive, though I do sometimes wonder if/how it affects the reading experience if there are particularly brilliant lines one has already absorbed. Also it seems Gabaldon has been talking about her books and sharing excerpts or snippets online for much longer than many authors over the same period, because of the way she used the original Compuserve writer’s forum to talk with other writers when she was starting out, though that message board had much more of the flavor of an author-moderated fan forum by the time I arrived on the Outlander scene in 2004. Jessie recently presented a paper on Gabaldon’s use of excerpts, tweeting, etc. and I think she looked at some of these questions.

      I think it’s interesting in this context that the book’s quasi-acronymic nickname was conferred by DG herself – many thanks for filling me in!

    • pamela1740 says:

      Oh, I also meant to ask if you have read MOBY, or are reading it? Did you pre-order? And if you are reading it, did you remember all the loose ends from Echo, or did you have to do a re-read? Sorry for all the questions; I really am interested in how we engage with series that are especially powerful and meaningful for us. 🙂

      ETA: whoops, I see you are listening to it. Will be so interesting to hear how it stacks up with the other books, and also in the big shadow of the tv series.

    • Dr. M says:

      Thanks, Kaetrin, for your post. I’m endlessly fascinating by readers’ responses to Gabaldon’s use of daily lines (DLs), and I’m eager to hear your take on this. While I have seen other authors post daily lines from their work in progress (WIP), I’ve never come across any author who does this as frequently and steadily as DG does. She also posts DLs from previously written novels on her FB page, so there are several places readers can go to get a steady stream of snippets from her WIP and her previous novels.

      I do study how reading DLs over several years affects the reader’s experience of the complete novel. I’ve found readers like you who appreciate having these brief excerpts because it keeps them close to their beloved characters and the unfolding saga of their lives. I also see fans conducting what I call a forensic reading of these lines in an effort to piece together the landscape of the novel’s plot. It’s pure speculation, and DG will chime in ever now and again with a teaser. But I’m impressed by the literacy these readers bring to this task, their encyclopedic knowledge of all the novels right down to chapter and page number, that enables them to make logical guesses about what will happen in the next novel. (Fan speculation about what happens in Book Nine is already underway on Compuserve!). Whether they are correct is something they won’t know until the read the book, but the fun of speculating creates a real bond among these fans.

      But I also found many other readers who avoid DLs at all costs, and section leaders on Compuserve carefully police spoilers at all stages. Comments about DLs are carefully herded on Compuserve so that fans will know they will encounter spoilers there. Even though MOBY is finally available, the Compuserve forum is awash with organized chapter threads with SPOILER warnings prominently placed in the subject line so that readers can participate only in threads with chapters they’ve read. One fan started a “Diana how could you thread” before the June 10th release of the book in the United States, and her thread was immediately hidden by the section leaders. Clearly, there are two camps out there in terms of whether to read–or not read–daily lines.

      Finally, I am now seeing fans post regrets about reading DLs. Several of them wish that they had not read them so that they would have a “virgin” read of MOBY. I steadily read DLs for EITB, and I found it disrupted my reading of the complete novel. Too often, I had the feeling of “deja vu” that proved too great a distraction for me. This time, I avoided the DLs and find those distractions are gone.

      But to each her own, right? Regardless of a reader’s attitude toward daily lines (read, avoid, regret), the end result is that Gabaldon’s books get discussed during the fallow period between the publication of her novels. Given that it takes her several years to write one of these big books, releasing daily lines is a successful marketing strategy on her part. When I read my paper about DG’s daily lines at a recent conference, one of the attendees asked me how Gabaldon has time to do this. Well, she makes time because it is a proven method for cultivating her fan base, and since her biggest promotional tactic is worth-of-mouth advertising, the more people talk about her books, published or yet-to-be published, the more books she will sell.

      Sorry for the long reply–this is probably way more than you wanted to know about daily lines! 🙂

      • kaetrin says:

        Oh, not at all. It’s fascinating! Thank you for all that. 🙂

        So far, I feel like most of the DLs have been from the beginning parts of the book. When i was reading them (and it wasn’t every day because I never searched for them – it was only if I was on Twitter when one came up which was maybe half the time (?)) there were quite a few I noticed were recycled and familiar but I didn’t find anything particularly spoilerish about them – unless people think that Jamie and Claire being happy together again is a spoiler. DG has promised (and I’m holding her to it) that J & C will end happily and I never thought they’d be too long apart or at odds. I guess maybe some of the stuff about Jem was a little spoilerish but there were strong clues about it in Echo and it’s from (I believe) the first quarter of the book. I can’t remember all the DLs of course, but I felt like they weren’t intended to be particularly spoilerish.
        Also, because they’re little snippets I read in among conversations on Twitter and other web surfing, I haven’t really retained them. I sometimes recognise something when I’m reading but I don’t have them in my head cluttering up my read.

        @Pamela – yes, I’m listening to MOBY now and I have the print book too. There have been times when I’ve referred to the print book to check a word I didn’t understand or see the spelling of something – there’s a pun in Latin that doesn’t work so well on audio because it’s a visual thing for example. I did a brief read of the Echo Wiki but not more than that. I’ve found that the book is explaining the context of things to me in a non-intrusive way and it’s all coming back to me as I read. I am noting things which, on their face, have not much work to do, but I am enjoying it so far. I’m about a quarter in. Davina Porter’s narration is stellar and it’s wonderful to hear the voices again. And of course (as is often the case when I’m listening to a book where the character has an accent of any kind) I’m muttering to myself in a Scottish accent as I do potter about the house! LOL.

  7. […] this whole thing as a group activity, given the weird ambivalence I’ve been experiencing (and posting about), in having the object of such an intense personal reading and fan experience (nearly a […]

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