Why are fans of Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series of novels going absolutely nutty in anticipation of Starz's forthcoming television series based on them?
"They sort of want to lick him," said Gabaldon, pointing to star Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie Fraser, the novels' hunky Scottish lover, on the show.
Gabaldon's quip came during the "Outlander" panel at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena on Friday. And as Homer Simpson would say, her observation was funny because it was true.
Before Gabaldon and executive producer Ronald Moore appeared alongside Heughan and Caitriona Balfe (who plays the show's heroine, Claire Randall), Starz showed a preview featuring the books' fans freaking out about the prospect of the TV show.
The fans in question were all women and all clearly into the romantic fantasy of the narrative, which tells the tale of a 20th century nurse (Randall) who travels back in time to 18th century Scotland, where she meets and falls for the dashing Fraser.
"It's Jamie ... they have been dying for years and years to see this story in a visual form," Gabaldon continued. "He's the focus, although they love Claire and want to be Claire."
This last desire is, again, likely because they want to lick Fraser.
So are any of the 500,000 online fans who devour more than 180 blogs about the books men?
Yes, absolutely, says Moore, who counts himself as a male fan.
"There's violence and conflict told through the contemporary character of Claire and her view of the past," he says. "I run into a lot of people who say, 'My wife introduced me to this book, and I love it.' I have yet to meet a man who has read it who hasn't fallen for it. It's a page turner."
Also, "Male fans tend not to stand out in the street with signs and T-shirts," added Gabaldon.
Fortunately, Gabaldon and Moore don't feel pressure to deliver a television show completely in line with fan expectations. They both say their primary responsibility is to the book series, and representing it as accurately as possible.
As for the show's stars, they're just happy for the built-in audience.
"Its nice to have an audience that wants you to do really well. And they're so supportive," said Balfe. "Often you have to start from scratch to get your audience and then to keep their attention."