Dr. Ursula Landman is an anesthesiologist with Stony Brook University Hospital, also a married mother of three from Port Jefferson Station. Quite obviously, her life is full, her work complicated, her hours endless.
And then, there’s her other life. That would be “Outlander.”
Consider: Landman, 50, runs the Long Island chapter of My Peak Challenge, a charity organization founded by “Outlander” star Sam Heughan, and its local Facebook group, “LI Peakers.” She has traveled to Scotland and England numerous times to visit sites where the show is filmed, or to attend show conventions. She’s trekked to New York City on countless occasions to meet stars or showrunners, or simply congregate with the like-minded. Thousands, for example, converged on New York Comic Con in early October for a chance to see the fourth-season premiere.
The show — after a brief break from last season, a period of time that fans have taken to calling “droughtland” — returns Sunday at 8 p.m. on Starz for its fourth season. This year, the action will shift to 18th century North Carolina.
What is it about “Outlander,” based on the best-selling Diana Gabaldon historical fiction series about a nurse who time-travels from 20th century England to 18th century Scotland? There she finds high adventure and romance, specifically with one Scotsman who is blessed with washboard abs, flowing golden locks and a Scottish burr as smooth as a snifter of Laphroaig.
Landman, 50, explains: “I’m torn [between Heughan’s character, Jamie Fraser] but drawn to the main character [Caitriona Balfe’s Claire Fraser] who’s a doctor, healer, mother. There are a lot of timeless elements in it, too. I love the love story of course, but I love historical anything. I’ve loved that since I was a child. Plus with the show you get to see the beauty of Scotland. But there’s nothing like seeing it in person.”
Fans are Long Island moms and homemakers, retirees and professionals. Some began their love affair with the books, others with the show that followed. Most didn’t know each other before this obsession began (but many do now). They never imagined they’d travel to the places this inspired them to travel to or meet the people they have met. They can’t imagine otherwise now. (Ask Landman.) Most are women, a few men -- dubbed Outmanders.
Long Island fans don’t advertise themselves. They don’t need to. They know who they are.
Take Terri Squires, 57, for example. This Hicksville native who is an office manager in Westbury traveled to four “Outlander” conventions this year. She’s been to many over the years, and has many thousands of photos posted on her website, www.terrisquires.com, as evidence.
While she concedes that the Long Island fan base — or “fan-mily,” as she calls it — is passionate, “honestly I don’t see that we’re all that different from the other fan groups, and there are fan groups all over the country.”
Asked to explain her devotion, Squires pauses. “I don’t know,” she says. “I really don’t know. Sam Heughan is hot, but when you meet them (the cast and showrunners) they are just so congenial and super, super happy to meet you and happy that you’re there. They’re very sweet to us.”
Nevertheless, there is something unique about “Outlander’s” LI "fan-mily." Michele Brass, a Bethpage mother of two, knows that as well as anyone. Back in 2014, she and a friend launched an “Outlander” Facebook page. They noticed that “in the large group of followers, we started seeing local people and thought,how cool would it be if we could meet each other in person rather than just online.”
But Brass and her friend noticed that the “larger group” was getting in the way. “Back in 2014, they weren’t,” she pauses, “nice. There was a lot of aggression to different opinions. You know how the country is right now? We had that very much in the ‘Outlander’ world.”
So Brass decided to make the Facebook page private for LI followers, and from there the “fan-mily” grew.
“The way I like looking at it is that the Island is unique itself,” says Brass. “I think we communicate differently. I think we understand each other. Something that someone might say in a larger [Facebook] group might be read by someone some place else as offensive. But we read it in a different way.”
She adds that “we can get into these crazy, crazy disagreements, but it ends with a laugh.”
And yes indeed, there is a Twitter feed too, OutlanderLI, moderated by Bay Shore’s Arlene Boeree, 67, now retired and a former secretary to the principal of Bay Shore High School. Boeree says the biggest source of disagreement on Twitter is between the hardcore book fans and TV ones.
“People do pick apart the show, so to speak, but everyone is respectful of everyone’s views. There’s just not the right or wrong way. It’s just their way of perceiving things. I’m one of those who feel they’ve done an excellent job of converting the books to the show.
“I’m a complete fan.”