Outlander: The Medium is the Message

 Posted by on February 12, 2015 at 6:54 am  Fan Art, Outlander
Feb 122015

Every viewer of Outlander comes to the community with a vastly different background and set of expectations. Millions of novels have been sold, including the corollary Lord John series and several ancillary novellas and short stories, the graphic novel The Exile, and The Outlandish Companion. Many viewers have read them; many have not. Many read the books in hardcover years ago. Others are eagerly swiping e-pages in advance of the April 4th return of the series. Some fans have no intention of reading the novels, a valid (if incomprehensible) choice.


from The Exile, the Outlander graphic novel, courtesy of www.dianagabaldon.com

I’m somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. I read the Big, Enormous Books (Diana’s words) once each, as well as The Scottish Prisioner novella. The only books I read exclusively on paper were Voyager (paperback, on a long road trip on my way toward and returning from summer vacation) and Written in my Own Heart’s Blood (hardcover, voraciously, this summer). I read most of the novels using audio, ebook, and hard copy simultaneously. The multiple formats each suited different circumstances of reading opportunity, providing me with unfettered Claire and Jamie access, any time, any place.

Last summer, I revisited the audio book of Outlander in advance of the the television series premier, and I’m listening to it yet again to prepare for writing recaps that examine the difference between the written (or, in this case, spoken) word and its performed interpretation. Ah, Davina Porter. Disciplined, meticulous, intense, yet measured in her faithful narration of all of the unabridged Outlander books, her voice is inextricably interwoven with my recollections, just as Sam Hueghan and Caitroina Balfe have supplanted the images that I’d conjured in my mind-casting of their roles.

What I’m wondering is whether the time, location, or medium in which you read the books has imbued your interpretation of the text. For instance, I can remember sitting in a parking garage and listening to the last chapter of Outlander. It was summertime. I had the engine turned off, the CD playing on accessory mode. It kept clicking off, timing out, so I’d have to turn the key in the ignition to restart it every few minutes. To avoid taxing the battery, I wasn’t running the air conditioning, and to hear every last word, I had the windows closed tight. I was sweating bullets, as much from what was happening in the story as from the ambient temperature. This was better than the occasions, also while listening to the audio book, that I literally had to pull over in order to process what I’d just heard, glancing surreptitiously into the other cars around me to see whether they had any idea what I was hearing.

I also think about fan art (which Diana selectively praises), the myriad critique and commentary blogs (many of which she endorses, even promotes), and fan fiction (which she vehemently opposes). I’d love to know what personal associations you’ve consciously or unconsciously created with the Outlander novels, and whether those associations are influencing your experience of the show.



  7 Responses to “Outlander: The Medium is the Message”

  1. […] via Outlander: The Medium is the Message. […]

  2. I have to confess to limiting my viewing of the series to the first program.. largely because I do not want to layer the film interpretation over the experience I’ve had with the written word and Porter’s interpretation. I’m very much afraid of spoiling what was a terrific experience with the graphic violence necessary to the adaptation of the work. In the books, much of the violence occurs off stage, and is left to the reader to imagine (or not). In a film adaptation, the violence must, or chooses to be, graphically staged. So.. I choose not to consume the series in this format. I think it is important to recognize one’s limits, and I don’t want to risk tainting my enjoyment of this work with what really is, in its own way, a fan adaptation of it into a new media. Porter is precisely true to Gabaldon’s work. The film is an adaptation. I’ll stick with the originals.

    • What an interesting twist on the conversation – thanks for sharing! Naturally, no matter how true Moore & Co. try to stay to the original text, by virtue of the format change, interpretations will need to be made. Good for you for acknowledging it; I understand your sentiment entirely. I’ve not been able to convince some people to watch the series because of their aversion to graphic violence. I’ve really enjoyed what they’ve done so far, finding it to not only hold better to the original text than most adaptations of novels, but also to its deeper intent with regard to the rare choices to stray. Most of the time, the straying is done purely for the sake of expediency. I’ll be delving further into this subject with the recaps, starting next week. I hope you’ll stay tuned… here, if not otherwise!

  3. This is an interesting post indeed. What we have here, according to reading theory (I’m a reading specialist), is a juxtaposition of texts or “intertextuality.” We are more aware of juxtapositioning in these times because of the postmodernism influence of multiple media. In layperson’s terms, this indicates we are often making meaning from a multitude of sources. In the past, most people would only have had the book and the movie to compare/contrast, and, if they were nonfiction readers, reviews and opinions of other readers. Oh, and of course, you would also relate other fiction of which Outlander reminds you and your own life. Nowadays, most popular stories have not only movies but television commentary, blog commentary (like yours), fan fiction (natural activity actually), graphic adaptations, and etc.

    Anyway, sorry, I got a bit off into my own territory of relating to Outlander. I embrace intertextuality, probably knowing what it is, so I like everything. However, my favorite medium for this work is the Starz adaptation. I like it better than the book because it does show actions, bloody or not, which need to be shown. Although the graphic novel adds some dimension, particularly to Jamie’s character, I absolutely detest how Claire’s body is presented with boobs all over the place and clothing that doesn’t look like the period. Nevertheless, love this story!

    • Really great insights, all, Linda! I suppose we do experience intertextuality more now with multiple media influences, let alone the remakes and reboots that pervade the world of entertainment. A lot of people hate seeing their favorite childhood books, television shows, and movies recreated for new audiences. Seen a certain way, isn’t mot every story based upon some ancient archetype in one way or another, though?
      I also agree that Claire’s rack is ridiculous. Besides, everyone knows that Jamie is an ass man 😉

      • Yes, all stories are supposed to be based on The Hero’s Journey. Outlander is cool in that it has a female “hero.” However, Jamie is a hero, too. I was listening to a podcast from The Scot and The Sassenach last night and they brought up the idea that Jamie is like an Arthurian knight, especially in his devotion and purity. Sir Galahad? Sounds possible.

        Jamie is definitely an ass man. I think the comic artist is probably used to enlarging boobs because that’s how they are in most comic books, torpedoes ready to explode!

  4. Also, I love the commentary — it’s like having a conversation with other knowledgeable people. Lately, I’ve found some podcasts I really like, too. Can’t have too many sources, you know!

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