The second season of Outlander starts April 9, which means the publicity starts two months ago. Hence this steamy Entertainment Weekly cover, which affords you the opportunity to imagine interrupting Claire and Jamie en flagrante.

But apparently the cover was somewhat controversial among the fandom, however—enough that Gabaldon herself published a lengthy note on her Facebook about why she didn’t mind it. She was especially skeptical of the notion that it was smutty and salacious and that was bad:

If you honestly think this cover is “smut” or “soft porn,” then all I can say is that y’all should maybe get out more. If you’ve ever watched television in the UK, you’ve seen more explicit things than this three or four times in an evening. If you’ve been watching “Outlander,”(as theoretically you have) you’ve seen much more explicit sexual encounters on several occasions. Were these not “smut”? Is it OK to watch “soft porn” in the privacy of your home, but intolerable that other people should glimpse it on a magazine cover?

Gabaldon also told anybody complaining that the cover made Outlander look like a “Harlequin Romance” that she’s “Pretty sure none of you who’ve used this particular disparagement regarding the EW cover have ever seen a Harlequin Romance, nor do you know what they are.” The confusion over whether the first Outlander book counts as a romance novel generally is decades old; Gabaldon has always said it’s not, but it’s often been packaged like one and there’s a good deal of audience overlap. But it’s damn sure not a Harlequin, which means something very specific. Here—have an explainer!

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As for the perpetual throwing around of the term “bodice ripper,” she said: “Stubborn resistance will gradually wear them down, but you have to keep at it—take it from one who routinely rewrites the cover copy on her ads and books…”

She was, all in all, pretty philosophical about the whole affair:

For those complaining that the EW cover doesn’t properly express the depth, complexity, etc. of the story (books or show)…well…no. It doesn’t. Would you like to suggest a pictorial cover that a) _would_ express that, and b) would appeal instantly to a wide audience? It’s one image; there’s no conceivable way for a single image to encompass this story, or a fraction of it. A magazine cover is meant to do _one_ thing: attract eyeballs. With luck, said eyeballs will zip to Jamie and Claire, but will also see the word “Outlander”.

Nobody asked me but as far as I’m concerned, when in doubt, the more clench covers, the better. Though frankly, I prefer this Starz promo image. Because you can tell they’re scheming together on some international politics, but they’re also definitely gonna leave that party, go home and fuck each other’s brains out.


Contact the author at kelly@jezebel.com.