|Synonyms:||Actor Slash, Actorfic, Real People Stories, Real Person Slash, RPS, RPF, RPFS, namamono|
|See also:||FPF, Category:Celebrities & Real People|
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RPF, short for Real People Fiction, is fanfiction written about actual people, rather than characters in a book, movie, or TV show.
RPF has been around since at least the late 1960s, growing alongside media fandom in conjunction with stories about fictional characters. While some of it is non-sexual, a great deal is sexually based, whether it be het, femslash, or slash. In femslash or slash oriented fandoms, the terms Real Person Femslash or Real Person Slash are used. These are more commonly used in many fandoms than the more inclusive term, RPF. It is possible that the term RPS predates RPF. Japanese doujinshi creators call RPS "namamono" (生モノ), which literally means "raw food".
Fiction About Famous People
There have always been stories about "real people", their adventures and their sex lives, written by authors as diverse as Homer, Shakespeare, Murasaki Shikibu (The Tale of Genjii), Sir Walter Scott, and Thomas Pynchon.
Alexander the Great was an immensely popular figure of legend. Centuries after his death in 323 B.C., fantastic tales were spun about his adventures.
All four surviving Brontë children wrote many stories about the Duke of Wellington and his two sons, Charles and Arthur. Their portrayals of Arthur became mythic (and erotic) in scope; he became the Duke of Zamorna and presided over the empire of Angria with many epic adventures.
Most published historical fiction includes real people as main and/or secondary characters.
In Commercial Celebrity Materials
In the 1930s and 40s, publicity for film stars included novels depicting their fictional adventures. Mostly published by Whitman, they depicted Judy Garland, Deanna Durbin, John Payne and other Hollywood legends solving mysteries or getting into perilous situations. Such tales also appeared occasionally in what were then called "movie star magazines".
Teen magazines of the 1960s and 1970s sometimes printed similar stories of popular teen celebrities in fictionalized adventures. These stories, almost certainly written with the co-operation of the celebrities themselves, via their agents and publicists, included romantic and adventure plots that would be familiar to fanfic writers everywhere. Blogger Mike Sterling describes one such story in his own collection, and includes an excerpt and a drawing from the original source. In the story, a girl named Cindi and Donny Osmond are involved in a scenario with hypothermia and huddling for warmth that fannish readers might see as Hurt/Comfort.
Published Works of Celebrity Erotica
Commercial works depicting famous people in sexual situations are fairly common, especially in purported memoirs such as Casanova's Story of My Life. Tijuana bibles were pornographic unauthorised comic books, featuring celebrities, published in the USA between the 1920's and the 1960's. Paul Krassner's 1964 surreal fantasy of Lyndon Johnson molesting John F. Kennedy's dead body  is another example of the genre, one that uses the famous to create a shock effect. In 2000, the horror writer Poppy Z. Brite published Plastic Jesus, a thinly-disguised Alternate Universe in which John Lennon and Paul McCartney fall in love and come out as gay. Starf*cker is an 2001 anthology in which "Carol Queen does Marilyn Monroe, Bill Brent does Elvis, Cecilia Tan does Ziggy Stardust, Michelle Tea does Motley Crue (all of 'em!), M. Christian does Whoopi Goldberg, and Susie Bright does Dan Quayle" . In 2006, Rockfic Press began publishing collections of fan-written stories about musicians and their sex lives in trade paperback format .
The Virtuoso is a novel by Sonia Orchard that tells a story about an Australian pianist, Noel Mewton-Wood, from the point of view of a fictional obsessed fan; in form and content, this story reflects possible experiences of the fannish RPF reader.
The First Fannish RPF
One of the first pieces of Star Trek fan fic to appear in a fanzine was RPF -- "Visit to a Weird Planet", written by Jean Lorrah and Willard F.Hunt . In it, we follow the characters from Star Trek when they are swapped with their real life actor counterparts; as Kathy L. remembers, "There were also cameos by 'Gene' (Roddenberry) and 'Fred' (Phillips, the make-up man.)" A sequel, "Visit to a Weird Planet Revisited" by Ruth Berman, took place at the same time but followed the actors, who suddenly find themselves on the real Enterprise. This story was later reprinted in the professional anthology Star Trek: The New Voyages #1 (Bantam, 1976). Kathy L. notes: "As was the case with many early ST zines, the issues of 'Spockanalia' were sent to Gene Roddenberry's office, to be shared with cast and crew (some of who sent back LoCs). Plus, since Ruth's story was approved for printing in a professional anthology (with a foreword by Roddenberry and a story intro by Majel), it's reasonable to assume that this early version of RPF was not looked at askance by TPTB. What Shatner and company thought is not known, but I'd be surprised if they cared, as the story was quite harmless."
Blake's 7 soon followed in the 1980s and 1990s with a similar series of stories, The Totally Imaginary Cheeseboard, The Cost of the Cheeseboard and The Other Side of the Coin. Very few people had any trouble with these stories -- they were gen and humorous. Indeed, Kathy L. notes that these zines "included disclaimers that made it very clear they were written with the full knowledge and permission of all parties (actors and fans)." On the other hand, sexual RPF, whether heterosexual or slash, was a very different matter.
The RPS Underground
By the mid to late '70s, RPS existed for Star Trek and Starsky & Hutch actors, and it quickly showed up in the upcoming Blake's 7 and The Professionals fandoms, but it rarely appeared in zines, or the circuit, except in cases where the characters and actors were meeting. 
There were Moody Blues fan communities and Beatles fan communities, only tangentially connected to media and slash fandom at the time. Led Zeppelin fandom took hold among women who already were media fans and had internalized media fandom's strictures against RPS, and was reborn as Tris/Alex or Allyn Sterling/Derek Quinn. Everyone in the fandom was clear who those names stood for, and yet giving them new names (and a slightly adjusted backstory for each pairing) normalized the pairing -- Tris/Alex stories appeared in media fanzines without outcry; the Allyn Sterling/Derek Quinn novel was advertized in media fandom adzines. A Metallica fannish community started in the 80s, but their fanworks, for some reason, didn't make it into mainstream slash fandom.
In 1985, a fan registers her fears and displeasure about RPS in the Pros fandom: "I think... the stories, in ANY fandom, that deal with a '/' relationship between real people. It's not only dangerous, but it's the height of bad manners and bad taste as well. Consider: how would you feel if you found out that people you thought were friendly were telling stories (true or not) about your sex life? Stories that could get back to your friends and families?... We may own the characters we write about, but we do not own the actors who created them. Friends, this is libel!... If you've got to write the stuff keep it to yourselves and if you have to share it, why not have the courtesy to change the names'" 
Some people have ethical and moral qualms about writing fan fiction about real people, even when those people have very public personas. There have been heated and intense discussions about this topic in fandom; these continue to crop up periodically, even though overall the pro-RPF position has become dominant in media fandom. Other fans were convinced that RPF was more legally actionable than FPF. For these reasons and others, RPF remained largely underground in media fandom until around 2001-2002.
One basis for it staying underground may have been the reaction of Tori Spelling and her lawyers to a piece of Forever Knight fanfiction, written in the mid-1990's, that included her as a character. The story supposedly portrayed her according to her public persona at the time, but she took offense and threatened to sue the university that hosted the ForKNI-L and FKFIC-L mailing lists. The lawsuit was averted, but the result was very strict rules forbidding the inclusion of any real people in stories posted to lists hosted on the psu.edu server (which included the main Highlander lists as well), without specific written permission from the person in question. A lot of fans remembered what a near-miss that was for a long time, and many new lists forbade RPF of any sort as a precaution, keeping "actor fic" largely underground for several more years.
The RPS Comes Above GroundIn 1987, the Star Trek: TOS zine, Shadows in the Rain published an RPS story, something that caused a huge amount of fannish discussion:
Another early example of RPS Star Trek fiction, published in 1988, was Sojourns. In 1989, a fan expresses her discomfort, and fear, of the author's use of the Star Trek creators in a slash novel, despite the fact that it was only a brief mention:The most disturbing thing about SHADOWS IN THE RAIN is that it encourages a basic tendency in fans to forget the separation between the character and the actor. I realize that this particular story emphasizes separation, yet at the same it undercuts our ability to keep Leonard Nimoy separate from Spock by bringing him into a K/S fantasy. If it is permissible to include Nimoy in a piece of K/S fiction, then why not Shatner? Why not both both of them together? In fact, what's to stop the next writer from coming up with a Shatner/Nimoy story, totally violating the separation between fantasy and reality in K/S?.... We may be sliding down a slippery slope here. There is a definite ethical distinction between fantasizing about fictional characters, and fantasizing about real people. The first is harmless, the second may be hurtful in many ways... It is important to understand where SHADOWS IN THE RAIN could take us. It that direction lies a K/S that is neither moral nor sane. 
My only actual "complaint " comes with the passage which includes the very real characters of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner, as well as Gene Roddenberry. Even though the story Ms. Hinson is trying to tell is a beautiful one, I'm not sure it was a wise idea to use actual names. Since I'm not really sure where the law stands on this matter, I'll reserve judgment, but to say it made me uncomfortable would be an understatement. 
These are a few examples of the pro/con discussion around RPF, 1992 to 2004.
- "I've talked about a "transparent veil" that separates fantasy from reality in SDB fandom - it's transparent, but it's still a veil, and it's tacitly understood to be there by the people who are playing together. It means there's not the need for constant disclaimers that "Joey and Lance are SO doing it, and I mean that in a fantasy, in-my-head way."
- "I guess 95% of my enchantment with fandom went swirling during the first go-round of RPS wars, back in, oh, 1999 or so. (Damn, that long ago?) Suddenly all kinds of people whom I thought were cool and open-minded were acting like judgemental, homophobic, hypocritical holier-than-thou jerks."
- "It could be argued that celebrity is the contemporary (or postmodern, heh) 'fictional character'. Just as boybands are generally (obviously) comprised of a group of created personalities, so too are any celebrity you see reported in the papers - Jennifer Lopez, Tom & Nicole, Elijah Wood. These celebrities are creating a character - performing a fictional character in a way, to (and via) the media and general public. Just as the record labels create personalities and characters for members of pop groups, so too are publicists, editors, lawyers, etc. creating a personality for celebrities."
- "I am genuinely amazed that a fandom made up of women can really truly believe that their right to write actor slash is more important than an actor's right to privacy." (anonymous conversation on private list, archived by sherrold)
- "I do not want to see person slash and i certainly don't want to afford it the same ethical status as character slash because i think ultimately it will only damage the character slash community. If "real name" slash is written, it shouldn't be circulated." (anonymous conversation on private list, archived by sherrold)
- "When you create a universe, with characters and situations, you get to play god. The universe, the characters, the situations are all objects that a writer manipulates to her heart's content. When you write about real people, regardless of situation, you have turned them into objects. Maybe this is neither good nor bad, but I feel that much of what past and current women's (and minorities) struggles are about, is a passion to NOT be objectified; to be viewed as individuals, as human beings, not things." (Nicole V, post to Virgule-L, 1992 -- quoted with permission.)
- "That being said, here's my opinion on people writing sexually oriented fanfiction about real people. It's WRONG, CREEPY, VERY EXTREMELY ICKY, and should be ILLEGAL. Anyone still unclear on my feelings should read the previous sentence again. I think fandom is a wonderful thing, and I love my fans. But there are lines that should not be crossed. Writing and publishing sexual fantasies about real people really crosses some important lines. I think it is an horrific breech of good taste, common sense, and basic human rights. If I were an actress or other public figure and found myself the subject of such "fanfiction" I would feel raped. But hey, that's just my opinion." ~ Lynn Flewelling, professional author to her fans.
Even after RPF gained wide acceptance in the late 2000s, many fans remained strongly opposed to its existence: "For example, I find "Wincest" to be a preposterous concept and the public distribution of RPS (or RPHet, if that exists) to be crossing a line that makes me want to deny being part of fandom if anyone asks." 
The Tipping Point
Although RPS was on the rise, most pairings were rare without a huge fandom and infrastructure in place. That made the RareSlash mailing list a place that was destined for clashes between RPS fans and opponents. After a discussion about 'Tallislash and Musicianslash and how to rationalize it', starting on January 17, 2000, the list owner announced on January 24 that "I will from now on allow realpeopleslash on the list, IF and only IF it is properly labelled." That resulted in a heated discussion on the mailing list with several members threatening to leave the list and to pull all their fic from the archive if RPS was allowed. In the end the list owner revoked the new rules, RPS remained forbidden and a new list was created on January 26, 2000: RS-X [RareSlash-X] is a spinoff-list of RareSlash, where the 'RealPeopleSlash' rule doesn't apply. You have been warned. The RareSlashX Archive was one of the early RPS resources in media fandom, the RealPeopleSlash WebRing connected sites with RPS content, and The Fan Fiction Directory opened up a short-lived spin-off for RPF to make it easier for fans to find what they were looking for.
By the middle of 2001, the visibility of RPF and the ever increasing number of traditional media slash writers who participated in RPF-based fandoms such as popslash reached a tipping point; fannish articles such as RPS on the Net and Frequently Made Objections against RPS v. 2.0 discussed RPF in spaces formerly reserved for fanfic about fictional characters. As the number of RPF fans grew, and Livejournal allowed fans to move away from moderated mailing lists, major fandom opposition to the existence of RPF ebbed. Meta discussions shifted more to the form and content of the genre.
The Social Network fandom illustrates the intertwined layers possible with RPF, where the characters in the book and 2010 movie are themselves real people while the actors themselves have fans, so fanworks are generally based on a mixture of fiction and what reality has been disclosed or discovered.
What is an RPF Character?
A frequent question around RPF is, "who are we writing?" Most fans agree that the characters we're writing about are the public personas of real people, not the real people themselves. (In fact, some people feel strongly that only big stars, the types who can afford to have their personas rigorously shaped and fashioned, should be used as RPF characters.)
In "RPS characters are empty signifiers", Lobelia321 says that RPF characters are less real than FPF characters. "Rps characters, by contrast, are total chimaerae. They are wraiths (and not of the SGA variety). They are insubstantial; they are surface; they are the ultimate screens for our projections."
In "RPS: Another Perspective", Hederahelix claims that the lines between FPF and RPF are often quite thin. There are plenty of FPF Phantom Menace stories that don't "make sense unless you’d seen the other roles Ewan McGregor had played," a clear case that "the actor’s body (and the other roles that actor has played) does in fact inform character slash."
See also: Canon in Real Person Fiction.
Well, How Would You Feel If It Was You?From time to time, both pro and anti-RPS supporters face the question of how they would react if they learned someone else had written an erotic story involving them? In 1996, Sandy Herrold asked (and answered that question) in a post titled "Unwritten rules, and the evolution of a consensus" posted to the Virgule-L mailing list:
A couple of people have sent me mail asking what I meant by "If, without asking me, someone wrote a slash story that had me, by name, getting fucked (consensually or no), I would want to know."
During a time of high passions, one fan wrote a another fan into a Pros story--using both her first & last name. In the story, she is forced to have sex with Bodie, and then consents to having sex with both Bodie and Doyle later.There was an outcry at the time (though a small one: although the person written about was well known, she was better known by her pseud than her real name, and many readers didn't know the woman named was a fellow fan). The consensus took sometime to develop, but most people decided that putting an acquaintance in a story for the circuit without telling them was inappropriate at best.
Major RPF/RPS Fandoms
A probably incomplete listing per decade. When sizes are given, they are approximations of the amount of fiction written about the pairings in question, not the even-harder-to-gauge total amount of fanac (fannish activity) in the fandoms.
NOTE: This desperately needs information about Sports and other non-media RPS fandoms.
- Spockanalia, the first Star Trek zine, publishes Visit to a Weird Planet, a story that sends Kirk, Spock and Bones back to the set of the filming of Star Trek. The three characters meet, among others, Gene Roddenberry. This was published in 1968 while the show was still on the air.
- At this stage, there are no 'major' RPF/RPS fandoms - either public or private; however fans are writing RPF/RPS and quietly sharing small amounts of Star Trek and Starsky & Hutch, circulating it underground. A few RPF stories in Star Trek fandom were published. Tricorder Readings ran a contest for members to write a "meeting Leonard Nimoy" fantasy. The Archives' Log, a Star Trek clubzine published Dream House by Steve Lampen in August 1974. In the story, Shatner, Doohan and Kelley are involved in tense negotiations over whether to appear in the new Star Trek movie. They wake up on the Starship Enterprise in the year 2241. After encountering a Klingon battle cruiser, the terrified actors are more than willing to accept the roles.
- Music: The Beatles, Moody Blues, Metallica, Led Zeppelin (Tris/Alex).
- Media: smatterings of Star Trek, Pros, Blake's 7, Harrison Ford meets Han Solo, and Starsky & Hutch actor fic existed, but no one called themselves a fan of, say, Shatner/Nimoy. RPS was rare, and completely integrated into the connected FPF fandom.
- Phantom Menace creates an "all but RPS" fandom, as media (i.e., non-music fandoms) inch their way into full-bore RPS. There are a few Ewan/Liam stories, but there are many many thinly veiled AUs that now read more like RPS than like media AUs.
- Popslash -- first truly major-sized RPF/S fandom; Six major characters, plus a host of side characters. The first fanfiction mailing lists were started in 1999; the fandom's most active years were 2000 - 2003.
- Figure Skating RPF -- around since at least the 90s, the 2010 winter Olympics led to an upsurge in interest in the fandom. Works focused on Johnny Weir, Evan Lysacek, Stéphane Lambiel, and Evgeni Plushenko began to appear in larger numbers. Small
- Hanson -- Fan fiction about the band began to appear quite soon after their first hit in 1997. The fandom's most active years were from 1997 to 2000, with fansites and fanfic sites numbering in the thousands, and a small and dedicated fandom remains today.
- LoTRiPS -- 2001 -- pairings between all of the prettiest actors in the LOTR movies. First true media source with a correlated but separate RPS fandom. Renowned for the percentage of tinhats in the fandom. Medium
- Eminem -- pairing the rap artist with musicians like Britney Spears, NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, other rappers, LoTRiPS actors or fictional characters like Lex Luthor or Faith from Buffy. Small
- CWRPS/J2 -- Mostly Jensen Ackles/Jared Padalecki (RPS version of the major Supernatural pairing, and actors they've worked with, including the Smallville actors); Huge. The size of the RPS fandom is probably attributable to the fact that many fans had objections to writing slash about brothers (Supernatural - the fandom "where RPS is the moral high ground.") or wanted to write in a lighter tone than the canon of Supernatural provided. Many months there were more Jared/Jensen stories than Dean/Sam stories in the Supernatural Newsletter, but overall RPF makes up just over 20% of the fiction posted to the newsletter.
- John Barrowman/anyone -- Out gay star of Torchwood is paired with everyone, but mostly actors from his show, or Doctor Who. Small
- Between July and November 2004, political slash involving John Kerry and John Edwards began to circulate online.
- Bandom -- members of a group of bands that interacted together, especially My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco. Medium
- AI7 -- David Cook/David Archuleta; winner and runner-up for season 7 of American Idol, and other Idol contestants. Small
- Star Trek Reboot RPS -- Chris Pine/Zachary Quinto (aka "Pinto") (RPS version of one of the major reboot pairings) Medium, and in one year, is already far bigger than all TOS RPS combined.
- AI8 -- Adam Lambert/Kris Allen; runner-up and winner for season 8 of American Idol, and other Idol contestants. Built on fans who had started to think of AI as a possible fandom the season before, and then expanded quickly when Adam Lambert came out, and was shown to be close friends with his straight competitor. Medium
- Pundit RPS -- Various pairings drawn from news parody shows, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as well as more traditional news programs. Small
- Top Gear RPF begins and continues into the 2010s.
- The winter Olympics in February, 2010 brought an upsurge in Figure Skating RPF, which had been around since at least the 1990s, with many new fans drawn in by the popularity and notoriety of Johnny Weir.
- A-Team movie RPF between Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper is developing a following (late 2010-2011).
- The Social Network and TSN Actor RPF center around the 2010 movie which is based on a 2009 book, which is based on the founders of Facebook. It tends to be a mix RPF about the real people, FPF about the characters, and RPF about the actors, including stories where the real people interact with the movie and/or actors.
- Bandom continues, with particular upsurges when key bands release a new album (e.g. My Chemical Romance and Panic! at the Disco in 2010/2011). Some fans include their girlfriends and wives in fanworks.
- Hockey RPF, particularly focused on the NHL, enjoys an increase in popularity.
Multifandom RPF Communities
- RPF Big Bang - a challenge for RPF stories over 15,000 words. Began in 2009, continued for a second round in 2010.
- Real People Fiction by Kristina (2005)
- this is not the post you're looking for by sinead (2003)
- Fact, Fiction, and the Writer's Reponsibility to the Truth by nopseud (2003)
- RSP, Boybands, and Dead Guy RPS by Michelle Christian (2003)
- I Don't Believe in Real People by Justine (2003)
- Because We Love Our Gods: Mythoi, Logoi, and Real Person Slash by joudama (2003)
- All About the Pairings, of From the Outside In by Sandy Keane (2002)
- RPS Reality Check by Dara Sloan (2001)
- Writing Under the Influence by Kit Mason (2001)
- Slashers of Silicon Valley by Dara Sloan (1999)
- Mike Sterling, This is the most I have ever written about tampons posted November 12, 2009, accessed March 25, 2010; WebCite.
- Slaughtering Cows and Popping Cherries by Paul Krassner, (originally published in The Realist, 1967)
- Plastic Jesus on Amazon.com
- Product description of Starf*cker on Amazon.com ISBN 978-1555835163, 2001, accessed May 13, 2010
- press release, June 10, 2005
- Interview with Sonia Orchard accessed May 7, 2010
- From Spockanalia 3, ed. by Devra Langsam and published in 1968
- Kathy L. in an email to Speranza, Feb 27, 2010
- See the Purple Pages.
- There is more than one Pros story where Martin Shaw acted as an actor-yenta to Bodie and Doyle. [find stories]
- The Hatstand Express #7
- Personal memory, and "ADMIN: Thinly disguised real names", accessed October 3, 2008
- one fan's opinion from On the Double #5, for more fan reaction to this story, see Shadows in the Rain.
- from a review in On the Double #10, see the Sojourns page for more reactions.
- Marythefan, 2002-11-23, accessed April 27, 2010
- Dara Sue's LJ, 2003-07-30
- angstslashhope, 2004-10-14, accessed April 27, 2010
- posted on the Flewelling yahoogroup mailing list, Dec 11, 2004.
- comment by klangley56 in The subject of slash], dated June 1, 2008; accessed Feb. 9, 2011; WebCite.
- ADMIN: Real People slash et al, in: RareSlash (Yahoo!Groups), 24 January 2000, accessed 28 March 2010
- RareSlash-X (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/RS-X/) created 26 January 2000, accessed 28 March 2010
- RealPeopleSlash WebRing, earliest known Wayback version 29 March 2001, accessed 28 March 2010
- Old index page of The Real People Fan Fiction Directory via Wayback, archived version from 07 November 2001, accessed 01 October 2009
- See Yahoo group NSYNC_FAN_FIC, founded March 28, 1999. Last accessed January, 2010
- Tagging the Supernatural Newsletter – Ed 1110 posted by Black Samvara on May 6, 2009, accessed January 10, 2010
- LJ's pinto_fic community has over 1600 members, and 1200 stories posted as of July 2010 compared to the TOS actors equivalent, LJ's Nimoy/Shatner RPF community (aka "Shatnoy") which has less than 500 members
- A-Team Kink Meme - RPF Prompts on Delicious. Accessed 23 May, 2011.