As will be posted on several blogs and Facebook pages today, June 1st of this year is being adopted as the 1st official World Outlander Day due to the publication of Outlander on June 1, 1991.
Like everyone else, I found myself pondering what I wanted to write. No doubt, most people will reflect on how and when they first discovered the Outlander series of novels by author, Diana Gabaldon, will share their love and appreciation, or shall tweet their favorite quotes. Those are all wonderful ways to celebrate, but I wanted to do something a little extra.
An idea struck me early on. Given Outlander is a time-traveling, historical novel, I decided to travel back in time to discover what happened – on this day in history . . .
So, I hit the Internet and started researching June 1, 1991. Guess what I found? Mount Pinatubo erupted after 600 years of dormancy. Fascinating and pyroclastic, but not what I was hoping to find. Lots of political unrest. What else is new? Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold? Pass.
Not to concede to discouragement, I expanded my research to include historical events for the entire year. But I didn’t want to write about George H. W. Bush being the 41st President of the United States. Further, I didn’t think anyone would want to reflect on the winners of the Superbowl, World Series, or the NBA Championship. All right, perhaps someone reading this post cares, so here are the results:
The NY Giants defeated the Buffalo Bills, 20 -19, in Superbowl XXV. Of note, it is the only Superbowl to date with a 1-point margin to win.
In baseball, the Minnesota Twins defeated the Atlanta Braves, 4-3, in the World Series. (Sorry, Mandy.) Of note, the series was declared by ESPN as the “Greatest [World Series] of All Time.” That’s a bold statement to make. I investigated further and discovered that five of its seven games were decided by 1-run. The seventh game was scoreless through all nine regular innings. In the 10th inning, Minnesota scored 1-run to win the series by 1-game.
The Chicago Bulls, with the 1st NBA finals appearance by the great Michael Jordan, defeated the LA Lakers 4-1; thus beginning their 90s dynasty. Of note, it was the 1st NBA championship telecast on NBC, and it was to be the one time the outcome of the Bulls’ victory would be 4-1. Believe it or not, there are more firsts to this tale, but I’ll stop here. I think we have enough.
I hope everyone is seeing the pattern. One Singular Sensation. One Book to Rule Them All. The 1st day in June. The 1st book in the series. The 1st book of its kind. The 1st Lady of Country, er, Science-Fiction/Fantasy/Horror/Romance/Adventure/Historical Fiction.
Co-incidence? I think not. I have more interesting historical details to share which prove June 1st as the date of a space-time singularity –the origin of my Big Bang Theory for the creation of the Outlander universe.
The fact you are reading this post on the Internet is apropos to my next revelation. In 1991, the 1st user-friendly Internet interface was developed by the good folks at the University of Minnesota.
The Internet, a network of computers and cables, had been around since the 1970s but was not widely accessible. What followed this interface solution was the creation of “Archie” – short for archive. Archie is/was a search engine developed by post-grad students at McGill University in Montréal, Québec – one of the 1st of its kind. Its purpose was to index the Internet through the use of unix line commands. Yes, we’re still in the cumbersome era, but the Internet is getting easier to use in 1991 – so let’s keep going.
Next to enter the picture is Timothy Berners-Lee (
@timberners_lee) from the European Laboratory for Particle Physics. In 1989, Sir Tim and a group of fellow computer scientists had proposed a global hypertext system to access the Internet. This new system – Hypertext Transfer Protocol (http) – was 1st and finally introduced in 1991 as the World Wide Web. Incidentally, Sir Tim was 36 at the time of www’s debut – the same age Ms. Gabaldon began writing Outlander!
Before 1991, the Internet had primarily been a playground for engineers, scientists, librarians, and computer-type geeks, like Ms. Gabaldon. (No offense to her). What I see with the culmination of these events is the Internet deciding, “Hey, there’s finally something worth talking about, and it’s called Outlander. Let’s make it accessible to the masses.”
I can neither confirm nor disprove Sir Tim as a fan of Ms. Gabaldon’s writing. But who can say he wasn’t hanging out on Compuserve and happened to catch a few spicy excerpts? Would it be a stretch of the imagination to credit Outlander for the motivation and inspiration for the development of the World Wide Web as we know it today? I don’t think so.
So far, I’ve presented several historical and unique 1st‘s in sports and technology. I’d like to take you on one last trip through the annals of Botany – a popular subject in the Outlander novels and the linchpin to my theory.
The Blue Rose has long been a symbol of mystery. Gifting a person with the rare flower conveys great admiration and reverence for their irrepressible imagination. In some legends, it is also believed to grant the gifts of longevity and youth. Do any of these words describe someone we all know and respect?
Prior to 1991, the blue rose was only a fantasy or a concoction of blue dye. That is, until Australian researchers broke the genetic code for the blue pigment synthesis in pansies – just a few months after the publication of Outlander. It took some time, but geneticists were finally able to produce the world’s 1st blue rose – in the same year A Breath of Snow and Ashes was published.
The rose in the picture below is the ultimate goal and next on the horizon. In 2005, a genetically engineered sensation – in a pale mauve – was created in cooperation between two laboratories: the biotechnology Melbourne-based company, Florigene Ltd. and Suntory Ltd. Interestingly, Suntory is a Japanese distillery and one of the oldest distributors of Japanese whiskey – another Outlander connection!
One of the most fascinating aspects of this genetic breakthrough should be as obvious to you as it is to me. Not only does the blue rose symbolize Diana Gabaldon to a T, but the cobalt richness and silkiness of the petals are what we see draped across the shoulders of our favorite author time and again.
I ask, did Outlander somehow motivate and inspire the genetic breakthrough of the blue rose? One can only speculate, but I dare you to disprove it.
The year 1991 yielded several diverse and unique 1sts, chief among them – the publication of Outlander and the introduction of Diana Gabaldon onto the literary scene. Looking back, it seems all the ones and 1sts were lined up, or rather, congregated around the novel’s release. Together, all those 1sts formed a sort of singularity in space and time, ushering in the start of the Outlander universe.
On a personal note, I’d like to express what the Outlander novels have meant to me over the years. They’ve certainly been a source of entertainment and education. But more importantly, they’ve become my source of courage. The Outlander universe used to be a population of one, until I opened a twitter account and started this blog. Now, I’m part of a population of thousands, if not millions.
Outlander has given me the fortitude to share myself and my writing with the entire world. The novels have made me a better and braver writer. They’ve also made me smarter and have taught me new ways of thinking.
But then, it’s not really the novels doing that, but Diana Gabaldon. She’s a woman who has shared her mind and time with us all and makes everyone feel as if she’s speaking to us individually. She is truly One of a Kind.
The beautiful artwork above was created by Kathy Powell. The sonnet was written by Yours Truly with grateful appreciation to Dàrsaidh (@scotWitch) for cracking her teacher’s whip over me. Thank you both, Sassenachs, for helping me celebrate #WorldOutlanderDay the way it should be celebrated – together!