Week 35: An Outlander Fan Gathering [Score +10]
“It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance.”
Ten years ago, I read the book that begins with this line—Outlander—and didn’t really think it was anything special.
Nine years later, after watching my mom plow through all eight of the tomes that make up the series by Diana Gabaldon one after the other, gushing about how much she loved the writing and the characters, I picked it up again.
And soon I, too, was plowing through the series myself, never blinking an eye at a 1,000+ page count. Something about my mindset, or the place and time, made me fall in love with this book on the second time around.
Since then, the Outlander series has been adapted as a critically acclaimed show on Starz, and the book that was first published in 1991 has found millions of new fans.
(For the uninitiated, the story begins with Claire Randall and her husband, Frank, who are vacationing in Scotland soon after the end of World War II. One day, while visiting an ancient circle of standing stones (think like Stonehenge), Claire touches a stone that transports her back to 1744, to the middle of a battle between a Scottish Highland clan and the British army. She meets Jamie Fraser, one of the Highlanders that rescues/captures her, and a camaraderie develops while she tries to get back to the standing stones and 1946.)
I met 30 of the most ardent, dare I say obsessive, Outlander fans on a recent Saturday when a friend invited me to join a lunch gathering of the local chapter of the fan club known as “Heughan's Hoosier Heughligans”.
I think of myself as a fan: I’ve read the series (several books multiple times), I’ve watched the show, I know the main actors’ names and follow them on Instagram. But I found myself wholly outdone by this group.
I’ll even admit I was a bit uncomfortable with the ardor some members of this group demonstrated for the man who plays Jamie, Sam Heughan. Heughan inspires women of all ages to not only name fan clubs after him but to swoon over his Scottish accent and skill with a sword. (Feel free to read that last bit literally or as a double entendre. Both are valid.)
I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the room at the Claddagh Irish Pub on the north side of Indianapolis, but it wasn’t a room packed with more than thirty people. I was given a nametag and sheet of paper with a list of names down the left side—the RSVPs for the day—and was encouraged to go around the room and find out where everyone else was from.
I made my way to an open chair, which happened to be in front of a large screen onto which a recent episode of the show was being projected. After settling in and placing our lunch orders, we each introduced ourselves and shared how long we’d been a fan. I was surprised and impressed by how many people had been a fan since the publishing of the first book in the early ‘90s. Some had even traveled to Scotland multiple times to make even more tangible their love for the series.
The day’s festivities continued with tips for finding new Outlander gear in local stores and online, a showcase of knitted items inspired by the show’s costuming, a trivia game, coloring page, and even a fun handout of Gaelic phrases and their phonetic pronunciations. One group member had even made Outlander-themed Christmas ornaments for everyone in the room.
I love that sites and apps like Facebook and Meetup are making it easier than ever for people with common interests to find their tribes, meet up, and geek out. I felt like I wasn’t quite up to Tribe (er, Clan) status with this group, but I enjoyed seeing how this one series of books has inspired such a following.
I had fun meeting so many other people who love a well-written book as much as I do, and for that kind of Clan, I’m always on board.
- Did something outside my routine: +1
- Left the house: +1
- Did something entirely new: +1
- Had a conversation with a stranger of at least 30 seconds: +2
- Had a conversation with a stranger beyond basics (i.e., work, hometown, what’s your dog’s name): +2
- Learned someone’s name: +3