Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone!

As we prepare to ring in 2020, it's time for another annual tradition here on Outlandish Observations: an old-fashioned Hogmanay celebration, as they might have celebrated it on Fraser's Ridge 250 years ago.
A firstfoot was to bring gifts to the house: an egg, a faggot of wood, a bit of salt--and a bit of whisky, thus insuring that the household would not lack for the necessities during the coming year.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 35, "Hogmanay". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I can't participate in a first-footing myself, even if I lived in Scotland (redheads being considered extremely bad luck on such an occasion), but I'd like to share these small tokens with you anyway.

Many of you will remember the Hogmanay celebration in OUTLANDER Episode 308 ("First Wife"), a very festive occasion celebrated with plenty of food, music, and dancing.

Here's an article about Hogmanay Traditions in Scotland. From what I can tell, the Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh are an even bigger deal than New Year's Eve in New York's Times Square.

Happy New Year, and best wishes to all of you in 2020! It's going to be an amazing year for OUTLANDER fans, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

Monday, December 30, 2019

2019 Year in Review

2019 was a relatively quiet year in OUTLANDER fandom, but there were still a number of notable events. Here are some of the highlights of the past year:

January 2 - 2019 opened on a sad note, as Diana Gabaldon's beloved dachshund, JJ, died as the result of an injury.

January - early February - The Great Thread Explosion of 2018-19 (aka Season 4 discussions on TheLitForum.com, where I manage the Diana Gabaldon section) comes to an end at last. My Season 4 episode recaps are here if you're interested:

Episode 401: America the Beautiful
Episode 402: Do No Harm
Episode 403: The False Bride
Episode 404: Common Ground
Episode 405: Savages
Episode 406: Blood of My Blood
Episode 407: Down the Rabbit Hole
Episode 408: Wilmington
Episode 409: The Birds and the Bees
Episode 410: The Deep Heart's Core
Episode 411: If Not For Hope
Episode 412: Providence
Episode 413: Man of Worth

March 14 - Diana Gabaldon receives a special “International Contribution to Scottish Tourism” award from VisitScotland at the Scottish Thistle Awards.

April 8 - Season 5 filming begins!

April 27 - My mom and I went to see Diana Gabaldon at an appearance in Burlington, NC. It really was a perfect day, and I was delighted to come away with this wonderful photo of the two of us!

May 24 - Adso joins the cast of OUTLANDER Season 5!

May 27 - OUTLANDER is finally available on Netflix in the US. (As of right now they only have Seasons 1-3 available.)

May 28 - The OUTLANDER Season 4 Blu-ray and DVD are released in the US.

July 14 - I posted my ABC's of Young Ian, the latest in a series of blog posts looking at the major characters in the OUTLANDER series. The idea is to list one word pertaining to the character for each letter of the alphabet, along with a brief explanation. Hope you enjoy it!

July 23 - The standalone e-book edition of Diana Gabaldon's story, "Past Prologue", co-written with Steve Berry, is now available in the US and Canada. This is a terrific story with lots of potential for speculation, and I'm glad more people will have access to it now. Highly recommended! Look here for more information.

August 22 - Diana Gabaldon made some intriguing comments about the shape of Book 9, GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE. She says it's shaped like a snake.

August 28 - Congratulations to Diana Gabaldon and her family on the birth of her second grandchild, Leo! His mother is Diana's younger daughter, Jenny.

August 29 - STARZ announces the premiere date for OUTLANDER Season 5: Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020!

September 14 - Sam Heughan wins a Saturn Award for Best Actor in a Television Series. He's been nominated five times but this is his first time winning the award. Congratulations!

October 7 - Diana Gabaldon announces that she has written an episode of OUTLANDER Season 5! This will be Episode 511, the next-to-last episode of the season, and we don't know anything yet about what will be in it. (Yes, of course she's still working hard on finishing BEES! She always says she likes to work on multiple projects at once, to keep from getting writer's block.)

October 15 - THE MAKING OF OUTLANDER: The Official Guide to Seasons Three & Four, by Tara Bennett, is now available!

November 22 - Last day of filming for OUTLANDER Season 5! They started on April 8, 2019, so it took a little more than 7 months to film 12 episodes, not counting the post-production work that will take several more months to finish.

November 30 - Very sad news. My mother, Helene Henry, passed away at the age of 82, after a short illness. She died at home, with her family around her, and it was very peaceful at the end. She just quietly stopped breathing. I am heartbroken and still grieving, but comforted by all the kind words of support from OUTLANDER fans. Many thanks to all of you who've offered condolences! Here's my blog post about my mom and OUTLANDER.

December 25
- STARZ releases the new opening credit sequence for OUTLANDER Season 5!

Thanks to ALL of you who take the time to visit Outlandish Observations, and I wish you all the best in 2020!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Season 5 opening credit sequence (SPOILERS!)

STARZ has released the new opening credit sequence for OUTLANDER Season 5!

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas quotes from Diana Gabaldon's books

Here are some Christmas-themed quotes from Diana Gabaldon's books. This is an annual tradition here on Outlandish Observations, and I hope you enjoy them. Merry Christmas to all of you who are celebrating this week!


If you haven't read all of Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER books, you may find SPOILERS below! Read at your own risk.

1) It's hard to imagine, from our 21st-century perspective, anyone losing track of the date this close to Christmas. But Roger had a lot of other things on his mind....
"What's the occasion? For our homecoming?"

She lifted her head from his chest and gave him what he privately classified as A Look.

"For Christmas," she said.

"What?" He groped blankly, trying to count the days, but the events of the last three weeks had completely erased his mental calendar. "When?"

"Tomorrow, idiot," she said with exaggerated patience.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 33, "Home for Christmas". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The photo above shows 18th-century style Christmas decorations at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

2) Here's a quote from one of my favorite scenes in DRUMS OF AUTUMN, when Claire comes to find Jamie in the snow:
"What if I tell you a story, instead?"

Highlanders loved stories, and Jamie was no exception.

"Oh, aye," he said, sounding much happier. "What sort of story is it?"

"A Christmas story," I said, settling myself along the curve of his body. "About a miser named Ebenezer Scrooge."

"An Englishman, I daresay?"

"Yes," I said. "Be quiet and listen."

I could see my own breath as I talked, white in the dim, cold air. The snow was falling heavily outside our shelter; when I paused in the story, I could hear the whisper of flakes against the hemlock branches, and the far-off whine of wind in the trees.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "Night on a Snowy Mountain". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The illustration above, showing Scrooge with Marley's ghost, comes from the 1843 edition of Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

3) I think it's interesting--and rather sad--that Lord John should seek out Nessie, rather than the company of his own family, on Christmas Eve. You may recall that he brought her a box of sugar plums, like the ones pictured above.
“Aye, well, it is Christmas Eve,” she said, answering his unasked question. “Any man wi’ a home to go to’s in it.” She yawned, pulled off her nightcap, and fluffed her fingers through the wild mass of curly dark hair.

“Yet you seem to have some custom,” he observed. Distant singing came from two floors below, and the parlor had seemed well populated when he passed.

“Och, aye. The desperate ones. I leave them to Maybelle to deal with; dinna like to see them, poor creatures. Pitiful. They dinna really want a woman, the ones who come on Christmas Eve--only a fire to sit by, and folk to sit with.”

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "Joyeux Noel". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
4) The next quote is a reminder that Christmas was viewed differently back then than we think of it today. But of course many of today's Christmas traditions date from the 19th century or later:
Catholic as many of them were--and nominally Christian as they all were--Highland Scots regarded Christmas primarily as a religious observance, rather than a major festive occasion. Lacking priest or minister, the day was spent much like a Sunday, though with a particularly lavish meal to mark the occasion, and the exchange of small gifts.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 34, "Charms". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

5) Speaking of Christmas traditions, here's one, from THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:
They’d brought down the Yule log to the house that afternoon, all the household taking part, the women bundled to the eyebrows, the men ruddy, flushed with the labor, staggering, singing, dragging the monstrous log with ropes, its rough skin packed with snow, a great furrow left where it passed, the snow plowed high on either side.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 43, "Succession". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

6) And what would the holidays be without sweets? <g> Check out Outlander Kitchen's recipe for molasses toffee, as described in this scene from THE FIERY CROSS:
With a certain amount of forethought, Mrs. Bug, Brianna, Marsali, Lizzie, and I had made up an enormous quantity of molasses toffee, which we had distributed as a Christmas treat to all the children within earshot. Whatever it might do to their teeth, it had the beneficial effect of gluing their mouths shut for long periods, and in consequence, the adults had enjoyed a peaceful Christmas.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 34, "Charms". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
7) Quakers don't have any special Christmas celebrations, but there's no denying that Denny and Rachel Hunter found Christmas, 1777, a particularly memorable occasion, thanks to Dottie!
"Well, that is odd,” Rachel said, turning to look first at her brother, and then at the small clock that graced their rooms. “Who goes a-visiting at nine o’clock on Christmas night? It cannot be a Friend, surely?” For Friends did not keep Christmas and would find the feast no bar to travel, but the Hunters had no connections--not yet--with the Friends of any Philadelphia meeting.

A thump of footsteps on the staircase prevented Denzell’s reply, and an instant later the door of the room burst open. The fur-clad woman stood on the threshold, white as her furs.

“Denny?” she said in a strangled voice.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 86, "Valley Forge". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

8) I love this quote, even though things didn't turn out the way Roger had expected. (The photo above, by krbnah on Flickr, shows Inverness at Christmas, 2009.)
She'd wanted to go to the Christmas Eve services. After that...

After that, he would ask her, make it formal. She would say yes, he knew. And then...

Why, then, they would come home, to a house dark and private. With themselves alone, on a night of sacrament and secret, with love newly come into the world. And he would lift her in his arms and carry her upstairs, on a night when virginity's sacrifice was no loss of purity, but rather the birth of everlasting joy.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "Home for the Holidays". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Wishing all of you the best in this holiday season!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Episode 501 opening scene will be shown on STARZ tonight!

For those of you in the US: STARZ will be giving fans a sneak peek at the opening scene of OUTLANDER Episode 501 at 8pm ET tonight, December 15, 2019. It's only four minutes long, so you may want to set your DVR so you don't miss it!

Two more months until we get to see the entire episode. Season 5 premieres on February 16, 2020.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Sad news

My mother, Helene Henry, died on Saturday, November 30, 2019, after a short illness.  She was 82 years old. She died at home, with her family around her, and it was very peaceful at the end. She just quietly stopped breathing.

We buried her yesterday.  Her obituary is here. I am heartbroken, of course, and still in a state of shock at how quickly it all happened, in the space of less than a month.
“It’s like—there are all these things I don’t even know!” [Brianna] said, pacing with quick, angry steps. “Do you think I remember what I looked like, learning to walk, or what the first word I said was? No, but Mama does! And that’s so stupid, because what difference does it make, it doesn’t make any difference at all, but it’s important, it matters because she thought it was, and…oh, Roger, if she’s gone, there won’t be a soul left in the world who cares what I’m like, or thinks I’m special not because of anything, but just because I’m me! She’s the only person in the world who really, really cares I was born, and if she’s gone…” She stood still on the hearthrug, hands clenched at her sides, and mouth twisted with the effort to control herself, tears wet on her cheeks. Then her shoulders slumped and the tension went out of her tall figure.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "All Hallows' Eve". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I understand this feeling now, in a deep, visceral way that I didn't before. My situation is somewhat different, of course, in that my brother and sister are here, helping to support each other through our grief, reminiscing, laughing over shared memories and family stories, and they will still be around for many years to come. I know I'm not alone. But my mother's death has hit me much harder than my father's did three years ago. So I thought it might help to write a little about my mom and OUTLANDER, as a way to remember the happier times.

Mom was indirectly responsible for my discovering Diana Gabaldon's books in the first place, because I originally bought OUTLANDER in 2006 with a Barnes & Noble gift card she had given me for my birthday.  She wasn't a fan of the books herself (her literary tastes ran more toward mysteries than Big Fat Historical Novels or time-travel stories), and she worried sometimes about the way OUTLANDER fandom had a tendency to take over my life, especially during "thread explosions" on Compuserve (now TheLitForum.com) after a new book or a new episode of the TV show came out.

But all my life she supported anything I really wanted to do, and eventually she stopped giving me the "Oh, that again?" look whenever I talked about the books. (I'm sure many of you are familiar with that look. <g>)  In July, 2012, Mom traveled to Scotland with me and my sister Alice on Judy Lowstuter's Celtic Journeys OUTLANDER Tour. That was the trip of a lifetime for me, no question about it, and I was so glad that Mom was able to share it with me!

At Loch Lomond.

Mom at Stirling Castle.

In April, 2019, Mom and I went to see Diana Gabaldon at an appearance in Burlington, NC. She was very reluctant to draw attention to herself, so when I introduced her to Diana, I said only, "This is my mom."  Now, in retrospect, I'm glad they had a chance to meet, however briefly. Mom wrote afterward in an email to my brother and sister, "I had a good time and especially happy to see Karen in her element, a smile on her face during Diana's talk and afterwards as she viewed those wonderful photos."

When my mom saw this photo of Diana and me, immediately after the book-signing, she said at once, "That's the money shot!" It was a perfect day, and I'm so glad that I got to share it with her.

Losing a beloved parent is so hard! My mom and I were very close. But I'm satisfied that I did everything I possibly could to care for her in her final days.

Goodbye, Mom!  I'll love you forever.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

November poll results

Here are the results of the November poll, which asked the question, "How long have you been reading Diana Gabaldon's books?"
  • 6.04% - Less than 6 months
  • 7.66% - 6 months to 1 year
  • 6.13% - 1-2 years
  • 20.74% - 2-5 years
  • 14.34% - 5-10 years
  • 7.94% - 10-15 years
  • 6.76% - 15-20 years
  • 9.83% - 20-25 years
  • 5.86% - 25+ years
  • 13.26% - Since OUTLANDER was first published.
  • 0.27% - I read excerpts of her work on Compuserve before OUTLANDER was published.
  • 0.63% - I haven't read any of Diana Gabaldon's books, but I've watched the OUTLANDER TV series.
  • 0.54% - Other
There were 1109 responses to this month's poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated!

It's been 13 years for me. I discovered OUTLANDER in November 2006.

Please take a moment to vote in the December poll, which asks, "What's your favorite gift from the OUTLANDER books?" (SPOILER WARNING: Some of the poll choices contain spoilers if you haven't read all of the OUTLANDER and Lord John books.)