|Synonyms:||Actor Slash, Actorfic, Real People Stories, Real Person Slash, RPS, RPF, RPFS, RLF, namamono|
|See also:||FPF, Category:Celebrities & Real People|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
RPF, short for Real Person Fiction or Real People Fiction, is fanfiction written about actual people, rather than characters in a book, movie, or TV show. For works specifically about athletes and sports personalities, see Sports RPF.
RPF has the same variety as FPF. Some of it is non-sexual, some of it is sexually explicit, and a lot of it is shipfic, whether het, femslash, or slash. In femslash or slash oriented fandoms, the terms Real Person Femslash or Real Person Slash (RPS) were used. For a while, RPS was the more commonly used term in many fandoms than the more inclusive term RPF, though in the 2010s this is no longer the case, at least on AO3 and Tumblr. It is possible that the term RPS predates RPF. Japanese doujinshi creators call RPS "namamono" (生モノ), which literally means "raw food".
See Timeline of RPF. NOTE: This desperately needs information about Sports and other non-media RPS fandoms.
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.
In 2003, JournalFen user dejla noted,
"Fandom didn't invent RPF.....One of my guilty pleasures were the Whitman series. It's where I found my first Old-Fashioned Girl and my first Heidi's Children. It's also where I found various books based on - real people. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Annette (as in Annette Funicello), copies of Pollyanna and the Little Colonel illustrated with stills from the filmed versions.
I also remember a fiction story published in 16 Magazine.... in -- I think it must have been 1967 or possibly 1968 in which a teenage runaway (female, natch) is rescued from her situation by some teen heartthrob of the time. It might have been Bobby Sherman, or at least, that's what my mind remembers.
It was also 16, I think, which published several pieces of Dark Shadows fan poetry and prose.
I'm sure that the 'lives' pictured in these had little or nothing to do with the real lives of the actors. If I remember, Annette lived with an aunt on the beach in California. I remember distinctly a scene in which she was pounding abalone prior to cooking it. And it had a mystery plot -- that was the period of Betty Cavanna.
But there have been many other examples. There's a series of books in which Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins are co-detectives. Sherlock Holmes has met Queen Victoria - and Oscar Wilde. I ran across another book in which Arthur Conan Doyle was a minor character. There are several movies in which fictional characters meet real persons.For that matter, Little Woman might count as RPF. Louisa May Alcott based it on her family, although a somewhat idealized family."
The First Fannish RPFs
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."
1977 brought Overshadowed, a controversial Dark Shadows story which involves two fans at ShadowCon and what they discover. One fan writes: ""Overshadowed" has drawn the fire of several of my correspondents, and no doubt you have already received adverse criticisms of it. You see, Jonathan was very sensitive about being 'overshadowed' by the character of Barnabas. Some people were cruel enough to tell him they were fans of Barnabas Collins, not him, and he was deeply hurt by these comments. Of course the writers, not knowing him as we long-time fans do, just wrote it as a clever story, but we hope he never sees it." 
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.
Other examples of early RPF are The Professionals zine Dead Beat which features a Moody Blues/Pros crossover (1982) and the Luminous Times Universe. Luminous Times, a shared universe, was was created during 1988-1992 and featured the members of U2 mixed with other media characters.
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 registered her fears and displeasure about RPS in the Pros fandom with a comment that was in regards to Death on the 9:13 to Birkenhead, a 1985 circuit Pros RPS which caused a great deal of fannish discussion, most of it negative.
- "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. 
In 1995, Sandy Hereld and Megan Kent hosted a panel about RPS at Escapade. Rather than discussing the merits of the genre they focused on how the "live"nature of the fandom (tabloid reports, celebrity activities) created highs and lows.
These are a few examples of the pro/con discussion around RPF, 1992 to 2005.
- "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.
- "As I said there, as much as anti-RPS people throw around the words "immoral" and "unethical", most of their arguments tend to come down to "You could get sued!" or "You make fandom look bad!" or "I just don't like it."
- A list of other arguments against RPS: "If you write RPS but change the names, that would be okay, even if the characters are still recognizable as celebrities; RPS about living celebrities is bad because there's a lack of consent, but historical RPS is okay, because everyone involved is dead; RPS draws attention to fandom, and when you get sued, you'll take everyone down with you! The celebrity in question, or his friends and family could find it, and it would squick them; Writing about raping a celebrity could be percieved as a threat against them; If you write RPS, it could be percieved as harassment/stalking/libel; RPS is stalking. And also rape; RPS is an invasion of privacy," and "Some people might think its real."
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 Were 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.
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.
Meta and Further Reading
- Slashers of Silicon Valley, essay at Fanfic Symposium by Dara Sloan (1999)
- RPS Reality Check, essay at Fanfic Symposium by Dara Sloan (2001)
- RPS: Writing Under the Influence, essay at Fanfic Symposium by Kit Mason (2001)
- All About the Pairings, or From the Outside In, essay at Fanfic Symposium by Sandy Keane (2002)
- REAL PEOPLE FICTION; reference link, a collection of links on Livejournal by cathexys between 2002 and 2005
- sinensis, Archived version by sinead (2003)
- Fact, Fiction, and the Writer's Responsibility to the Truth, essay at Fanfic Symposium by nopseud (2003)
- RPS, Boybands, and Dead Guy RPS, essay at Fanfic Symposium by Michelle Christian (2003)
- I Don't Believe in Real People, essay at Fanfic Symposium by Justine (2003)
- Because We Love Our Gods: Mythoi, Logoi, and Real People Slash, essay at Fanfic Symposium by joudama (2003)
- Real People Fiction, essay at Fanfic Symposium by Kristina (2005)
- RPF?! (post), posted to Fanthropology (2005)
- History of Real Person Fic - Fan History Wiki Entry, Archived version (2008)
- some anti-RPS arguments that I do not understand; Archive (2005)
- Compartmentalization and RPF; Archive for page one; page two; Archive for page two; page three; Archive for page three (2007)
- Real person fiction at Wikipedia
- In the 2015 discussion Was Fanfic Any Different in the Olden Days?, Tumblr user braindamageeclipse remembers, it feels to me like a lot of big sea changes happened in fic around 2000-2001. The widespread, strong taboo against RPF (still then more often called RPS, because back then the word “slash” was still the “understood he” of fic parlance. 19 January 2015. Meanwhile AO3 has a policy of appending RPF and not RPS to fandom tags; whether this naming convention contributed to or was a result of the changing usage is unclear.
- 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
- In addition to writing dozens of mystery stories, Betty Cavanna practically created the modern teenage-girl novel. Her heroines confront everyday life problems with which adolescent readers can identify.
- dejla. Some thoughts about RPF... dated September 15, 2003; reference link.
- From Spockanalia 3, ed. by Devra Langsam and published in 1968
- from an LoC in The World of Dark Shadows #16/17
- 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 a pro-RPS fan summarizing the arguments against RPS in a August 2005 fanthropology thread RPF!; WebCite; reference link.
- some anti-RPS arguments that I do not understand a list of anti-RPS reasons along with counter-poitns debunking them dated March 24, 2005; reference link; WebCite.
- 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
- reference link.