rel="stylesheet">

Sliding Stones — An Outlander “What If?”

by Mil Scott

Many reading this may be familiar with a late 90’s film entitled Sliding Doors — which took the imaginative approach of beginning a story in which a young woman missed a train, and then backing up to show the alternate scenario of her having caught it.  From that point on, it presents the two different journeys — and outcomes — that might have resulted from these two different split-second occurrences.  Similarly — and hence the title, Sliding Stones — this page introduces a work of what I call “fan fiction as creative criticism” to present an alternate scenario to Season 3 (and a bit of Season 2) of the Outlander TV series.  Specifically, it offers detailed speculation into “What if Claire and Jamie hadn’t been parted by Culloden?”

As mentioned in my initial review of Outlander,  despite my love for the series overall, I found (much of) Season 3 not only disappointing, but in key aspects, largely unbelievable (in light of all that had been built in Seasons 1 and 2).  Most notably, the character of Jamie seemed to act in ways not at all consistent with the Jamie we had come to know — and in Episodes 6 and 8 particularly, not the one Claire had come to know, either.  Before delving more deeply into that, however, I hasten to point out that, based upon reviews I’ve read covering both Season 3 of the television series, and the book from which it’s derived, I fully realize mine (though shared by my husband and some close friends) is a minority viewpoint. And in candidly airing it, I mean no disrespect to those who disagree with it.

Also, before getting to the specifics of Sliding Stones, I want to explain that it is based solely on the Starz TV series (I have not yet read the books) and to provide the disclaimer that I’m by no means claiming these characters as my own.  Nor am I in any way attempting to compete with the official Outlander TV series (and/or books. In fact, if you haven’t already watched the full series — and maybe more than once — I urge you to stop reading right here and go start bingeing on it immediately!)  On the contrary, it’s merely one evidence of the depth of passion Outlander‘s excellence has inspired in fans, and how truly inescapable its world proves once one becomes immersed in its wonderfully full characters and engrossing events. Truly, Sliding Stones exemplifies a quote by which I’ve long felt defined: “The work of creation is an act of love.”  For, while I’ve reviewed quite a number of films, books and more for (the prior incarnation of) this website and occasional other outlets, never before have I felt compelled to follow that criticism with an entire creative alternative.  In this case, however, I’m reminded of words the great Peter O’Toole intoned (playing a food critic in Ratatouille)… 

“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”

While I could pretend at this point that my motivation in creating Sliding Stones was the noble cause of going beyond merely pointing out what others may have done “wrong” by actually offering “helpful” suggestions on how it might have been done “better,” I instead freely confess that I’ve begun this effort for far more selfish reasons:  I simply couldn’t get its ideas and images out of my head any other way.  Ever since first watching the “offending” episodes, they’ve not merely persisted, but further developed and grown to a point I’ve at last realized can only be dealt with by allowing them to spill onto a page (or computer screen, as the case may be)… a circumstance you may well consider proof of my insanity.  Rather than attempting to hide this, however, in service to my calling as a creative writer, I’m hereby inviting you into the “madness” inside my brain.

Of course, in doing so, I also realize I’ve opened myself to the next line of the above quoted speech:  “But there are times when a critic truly risks something…”  And, though by no means claiming to engage in anything close to heroism, not only am I risking the ire of my fellow Outlander fans, but also the derision of those who frown upon any notion of fan fiction, including those who assert that it’s illegal.  Having conducted a tiny bit of research before embarking on this, however, I learned there’s never been a successful prosecution against anyone not looking to profit from (or otherwise cause harm with) such a work.  And, I’m therefore reasonably confident this isn’t likely to change that precedent.

That lengthy preface out of the way, to share a bit about the mechanics, if you will, of Sliding Stones, it formed in my head largely as scenes I could see unfolding — some branching out from a scene (or part thereof) that actually aired on the show, others offering an entirely different series of events that seemed to me more likely.  Since the written pieces that resulted, however, are not teleplays, nor really book chapters (and in keeping with the theme of stones), I’ve dubbed them “pebbles.”  What’s more, as the average scene of an actual production averages three minutes in length — meaning each 60ish minute television episode includes roughly 20 scenes, you’ll realize that the first pebble does not include anything close to this number.  That said, if one imagines episodes made from them, the first would include Pebble #1 and selected parts of others yet to come.  Of course, while it’s very easy to set aside an hour of time to watch a real Outlander episode, it’s doubtful anyone wants to spend that amount of time in front of a computer screen for what’s intended as a fun read.  (Nonetheless, I must warn you that the pebbles aren’t all that short!)

Finally, to explain the thought process behind Pebble #1, this was in part inspired by a line in Season 3, Episode 8, wherein Jamie offers a far from convincing explanation to his sister Jenny in explanation of Claire’s 20 year absence.  In response, Jenny replies,  “The Claire I kent would never have stopped looking for you.”   And, that’s all you need to know to begin reading…

Pebble 1  — The Solid Rock