Monday, July 04, 2011

New This Week: Outlander: 20th Anniversary Edition by Diana Gabaldon

If, like so many other millions, you’ve fallen in love with Diana Gabaldon’s smart, sexy and unlikely tales of science fiction time travel romance, it may surprise you to learn that, this month marks the 20th anniversary of Outlander, the book that started it all back in 1991.

In a 1999 interview, when the success of Gabaldon’s series featuring former combat nurse Claire and hot young Scottish clansman, Jamie Fraser, was growing, but still fairly new, the author told me that one of the earliest inspirations for Outlander was the BBC television series, Doctor Who. From January Magazine’s 1999 interview with Gabaladon:
It was one of the early episodes [of Doctor Who], and he had a young Scots lad that he'd picked up in 1745. He appeared in his kilt, you know. And I thought, "Well, that's rather fetching." So I thought, "Well, it doesn't matter where I set this book, I'm going to have to look everything up anyway. The important thing is to pick a place and start in." So I said, "Scotland in the 18th century. That's where I'll start." So I started. But it was still a straight historical novel.

About the third day of writing I said, "Well, I'll have to have a female character here to play off all these men in kilts. And given that we're dealing with the Jacobite rising, perhaps I should make her an Englishwoman, that way we'll have lots of conflict built in." So I did, and I introduced her and the minute I put her in, she refused to talk like an 18th-century person. She immediately started making smartass modern remarks and she also started telling the story herself. And I said, "Well, if you're going to fight me all through this book, go ahead and be modern and I'll figure out how you got there later." So it's all her fault that there's time travel in it.
The rest, one might say, is science fiction time traveling history.

Some of this material is covered in a new foreword to the 20th anniversary edition of Outlander, out from Delacorte this week. Created as a collector’s edition, the new publication includes a readers’ guide, maps and timelines and a CD of songs from Outlander: The Musical.

January Magazine’s 1999 interview with Gabladon is here. We chatted with her again in 2002 and that interview is here. ◊

Linda L. Richards is editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.



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