|Synonyms:||Actor Slash, Actorfic, Real People Stories, Real Person Slash, RPS, RPF, RPFS, RLF, namamono|
|See also:||FPF, Shipping Characters, Not Actors, Category:Celebrities & Real People|
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RPF, short for Real Person Fiction or Real People Fiction, is fanfiction written about actual people, rather than fictional characters. RPF has been around since at least the late 1960s, growing alongside media fandom in conjunction with stories about fictional characters (FPF).
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--note the naming of early to mid 00s fandoms like boyband slash, Popslash, Lotrips, and Bandslash--though in the 2010s this is no longer the case, at least on AO3 and Tumblr.[note 1][note 2] It is possible that the term RPS predates RPF. Japanese doujinshi creators call RPS "namamono" (生モノ), which literally means "raw food".
"Actorfic" is an older term (1990s to early 2000s), one that is specific to fanfiction about television and film actors.
For works specifically about athletes and sports personalities, see Sports RPF. For works on musicians and bands, see Music RPF. For works on historical figures, see Historical RPF.
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 (see Brontë family at Wikipedia]) wrote and roleplayed 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 authorized novels depicting their fictional adventures. Mostly published by Whitman and described as "The Newest, Up-To-The-Minute Mystery and Adventure Stories for Boys and Girls, featuring your favorite characters," they depicted Judy Garland, Deanna Durbin, John Payne and other Hollywood legends solving mysteries or getting into perilous situations. Even Alfred Hitchcock was depicted as a mentor to some junior detectives, in the Three Investigators series. 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.
The Brontës Went to Woolworths, (1931, reprinted by Bloomsbury, 2010), a novel by Rachel Ferguson, is about RPF. A slightly bohemian British family make up and roleplay a "Saga" with fantasy characters as well as imagined versions of various public figures. It's a humorous compulsion based partly on their theatrical background and partly on their open-mindedness to psychic phenomena. The plot thickens when they connect with the ghosts of the Brontë girls during a seance, and in everyday life with one of the subjects of their "Saga", an elderly judge, who with his wife begins to warmheartedly play along. Ferguson was a huge Brontë fan and wrote a play about Charlotte as well.
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.[note 3]
But there have been many other examples. There's a series of books in which Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins are co-detectives.[note 4] Sherlock Holmes has met Queen Victoria[note 5] - and Oscar Wilde.[note 6] 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."
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 2009 novel by Sonia Orchard about an Australian pianist, Noel Mewton-Wood (1922-1953, suicide), from the point of view of a fictional obsessed fan; in form and content, this story reflects possible experiences of the fannish RPF reader. It also includes a depiction of the London bohemian scene with its open sexual variation and homosexuality. Books like Mary di Michele's Tenor of Love (2004) about Enrico Caruso, and the historical romances of Mary Renault about Alexander the Great, also count as RPF even when they depict events and relationships that are known to have happened.
See Timeline of RPF.
The First Fannish RPFs
The first RPFs usually centered around the actors and characters inadvertently switching places, either aboard their respective spaceships or at fan conventions. This is sometimes referred to as real world crossovers.
One of the first pieces of Star Trek fan fic to appear in a fanzine was the 1968 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; there were cameos by 'Gene' (Roddenberry) and 'Fred' (Phillips, the make-up man). Some other early examples of this type of Star Trek fanworks are "Tomorrow is Yesterday" (a Dorothy and Myfanwy story) (1970) by Dorothy Jones and Astrid Anderson, Dream House (1974) and Karen & Leonard: A Monochromatic Romance (1975), all of which have no sexual component. See Star Trek RPF.
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." 
An example of an early Doctor Who RPF is "In a Glass Lightly," a 1982 story by Jean Airey in the zine Faces of Time #2. In it, Tom Baker walks off the set for the last time as Peter Davidson takes on the role of the Doctor. As Baker walks home, he finds a police box, steps in, and is transported to the Doctor Who universe.
An early example of Star Wars RPF is A Day In The Life... on the set and includes Irvin Kershner, George Lucas, as well as some of the actors. In that story, Mark Hamill loses his temper and kicks around the foam Yoda character. Another fic is 1982's "The Meeting" in the Star Wars zine Dark Lord. In it, Mark Hamill and Frank Oz converse on the movie set, and Hamill interacts with some Muppets.
Blake's 7's early RPF in 1980s and 1990s had 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)." RPS (sexual stories about the actors themselves) are pretty much non-existent in Blake's 7 fandom. [note 7]
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, stories depicting homosexual encounters between real-life actors and rock stars existed for Star Trek and Starsky & Hutch[note 8] actors. Blake's 7 and The Professionals also had RPS fandoms, but writings based on these actors rarely appeared in zines, or the circuit, except in cases where the characters and actors were meeting.[note 9]
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 Professionals fandom with a comment that was in regards to Death on the 9:13 to Birkenhead, a 1985 circuit RPS tale 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 actress 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.[note 10]
The RPS Comes Above Ground
In 1987, the Star Trek: TOS zine, Shadows in the Rain published an RPS story, something that caused a huge amount of fannish discussion:
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. 
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:
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.
An example of a very explicit self-insertion 1987 fic featuring George Michael of the musical group "Wham" is First Fantasy.
"RPF" and "RPS" largely remained underground until about 2002. The interest in popslash was one fandom that brought the genre into higher visibility. Ironically, fanfiction.net, the then-largest and most comprehensive fan fiction online archive which initially allowed various forms of RPF, removed all Real People Fiction in 2002. Fanfiction.net previously had prohibited actorfic but had allowed other forms of RPF.
It was the internet that pushed RPF into greater visibility. From Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Henry and Cynthia Jenkins (2012):
[Cynthia Jenkins]: You dumped [a fandom] into the Internet and a year later, it was a hundred times bigger, and a year after that, it was hundred times bigger, and a year after that, it was a hundred times bigger. The growth was so exponential that the culture that had been transmitted was swamped by the newbies. And everybody felt like they had just lost control of their culture. Because in the past, you'd brought people into fandoms and cons a few at a time, so if you had a con with a hundred people, and you had ten new people, this was fabulous, but the ten new people didn't get to define what the con was. As opposed to having a con with a hundred people and having a hundred thousand people suddenly show up. You can't control that. And I think that there was a sense that everything was out of control, and that none of the assumptions that had come to be central to the culture could be taken for granted anymore. One key example here would be Real Person Fic. Because for a long time, I guess growing out of conversations like those with the actors in the mid '80s, there was a very clear sense amongst the fandom, "We're writing about the characters, we're not writing about the actors." RPF existed, but it was underground and it was acknowledged as a little transgressive, because you were really crossing a line there. And people enjoyed crossing that line maybe, but they still would pass the stories to their friends, they didn't publish them in zines. There was an assumption that there was a line. When everything slam-dunked the Internet, that assumption went out the window. And suddenly, people were writing stories about real actors as if they were characters with no sense that there could be a line. And I think, say, the old members of the community were looking in horror and thinking, you know, "Oh my God, they don't understand."[Henry Jenkins]: Because I think the actors who flipped out in Blake's 7 flipped out in part because they were anxious about how people perceived their sexuality as human beings, and were they showing too much of who they really were, I think there may have been some closet cases among some of those actors, it's hard to know. But the freakout was a very personal thing for them. And the fans had kept saying, "We're not writing stories about you at all. We're writing about our version of your character." And that line was very, very clear. And when writing Textual Poachers, people would slip me a Real Person Slash story every now and again, but I was absolutely told, "Don't write about this. This is the secret of the community." And I respected those secrets. There was no reason to reveal those secrets. And the taboo was there for reasons. I'd lived through the Blake's 7 blowup. I understood why people were so — why that was a very sensitive area. Then, suddenly, a decade later, this is all over the Internet, and people are starting to write about it, and other academics have published about it, and it's just like—the side of me that lived through that history, I cringe. And more and more, when this stuff comes out, and I still have this kind of reaction.
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.
However, even after RPF gained wide acceptance in the late 2000s, many fans remained strongly opposed to its existence: "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."  As of 2015, a Fail_Fandomanon thread titled RPF, love it or loathe it could still get a wide variety of responses on where fans draw the line on what is and is not okay to write about.
RPF Debate Points: Pro and Con
These are a few examples of the pro/con 1992-2005 discussions around RPF.
: 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 had many reservations about posting real-people-fic. Do I think this is ethical? No. Do I think it's nice? Not really. Do I think it's libel? Hell yeah. Do I do it anyway? ... sure. Mostly because, hey, so many other people are doing it, how much trouble can I really get into? 
: 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."
: 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." 
: 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. 
: 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." 
: As women, we have a very big stake in the right to privacy. I am genuinely amazed that a fandom made up of women can really truly-ully believe that their right to write actor slash is more important than an actor's right to privacy. Also, let's quit calling this "actor" slash. That'a as dishonest "anti-life" rhetoric. We are talking about "person" slash. Martin Shaw is a person employed as an actor. When a story is written about Martin Shaw getting fucked by Lewis Collins, it is Martin Shaw getting it, not his profession. 
: Paul Darrow really needs a girdle, good makeup, careful camera angles, kind lighting, and a better wardrobe than he's worn to any con to be confused with Avon by even the most myopic fan [who can't tell the difference between the actor and the character]. However, it seems Meegats abound... I'm even not nuts about the "Visit To a Weird Planet" type of story. See also "Totally Imaginary Cheeseboard", where Avon beams down to a Scorpio. (If those were supposed to be the B7 actors, they must've been on tranquilizers, in a dry state.) What makes an author think she can realistically depict what's going on in an actor's head, from an on-screen performance, a couple of talk shows, and maybe a con? Reality check: Even at cons and on talk shows, the actors are STILL ACTING. You think Joe Drama is going to tell Arsenio that he goes home, beats his wife, kicks the dog, and defenestrates the cat, and by the way he has this terrible foot odor and jock itch problem? There are very few actors who admit to being boringly mundane at home, either. To me, this type of story smacks of "star obsession". 
: I was at Zebracon in '95 [note 11], and the hottest-selling item in the dealer's room was a zine called "Double Axle", bidding was fierce at the art auction over a depiction of a nude Brian Boitano, and the songvid contest was won by a deeply moving work called "Too Long A Skater"... It's all right, I'm calming down now. Your fandom's ok, my fandom's ok. Aside from the fact that I take my figure skating seriously, ([L] has accused me of stockpiling the last 4 Winter Olympics and rewatching them over and over again. Actually, I confess I have contemplated buying that video of "Great Olympic Skating" and I don't take calls during pairs) -- but this scenario had me on the floor. Just the thought of a Suzan Lovett Boitano/Hamilton pas de deux on ice, as they show some Russian pair how to do it ... a zine where the fierce skating coach (Hamilton) forces the playboy (oh, try Christopher Bowman) to get down to business to win the worlds despite having had mad, passionate sex all night on the ice ... and the songvids, oh the songvids ... probably "Holding Out for A Hero" will make it in there somewhere. As to the ethics of it all -- well, perhaps I have been affected by meeting several of the actors whose work rang my chimes. In person ... well, disappointing ... Now I can only account for Lewis Collins, William Shatner et al the rest of Trek, ... but so far, they've all behaved like petulant assholes. (I know, [L] ... but you can't assure me that Martin Shaw is a perfect gentlmen ... I've heard the stories). This confirms a previously held belief (from years of working in college and community theatre) that most actors probably are assholes. It's practically a job prerequisite. And that's okay ... an actor only owes me, the audience, the work that he does. But it doesn't make for good wet dreams. Pinning myself down further. I've seen some actor slash. The fact that it was all bad allows me to hold the moral high ground here. I really can't say what I would do if I heard that Sebastian had written some. I hope I would nobly turn my nose up at it ... since it does make me feel a little, no, a lot uncomfortable. But then, I've said never before ... Why does it make me feel uncomfortable? I don't know really, but somebody can probably tell me. But it does cross some sort of threshold for me, like being a peeping Tom. No real damage to anyone, nobody knows about it, but still, it makes me feel perverted. As to all the quite well-argued points everyone is making ... all I can stubbornly do is hunker down and just say that I don't like it because ... because I don't like it, even if I'm wrong. 
:...few things squick slash writers across the board, but i've always thought that "actor-slash" was a sure-fire way to do it -- or "actor-fic" of any sort, sexual or not, really. the characters are ours to play with; rb, gm, and the rest of pet fly are their own people, and while we may gossip, we do not rewrite their lives. 
: ... 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 perceived as harassment/stalking/libel; RPS is stalking. And also rape; RPS is an invasion of privacy," and "Some people might think its real. 
: It' just strikes me as completely disrespectful of the actor, and a *horrible* invasion of their families when it's taken past the actor. (Which is bad enough as it is.)
There's something different when a fanfic story plays with the actors/fans or actor's/show in a humorous way. "Visit to a Weird Planet" type of story, where the author is making fun of the show and teasing about the actors being confused with their characters. IIRC, the first one I read was in "Star Trek" and professionally published. But even that can go too far, and in one zine there was a story that came off as too much "David and Paul" to me, and made me uncomfortable enough that I really didn't want to finish it. I felt the writer had crossed a line, no matter what her disclaimer said.
When the author actually starts to write about the actor, a real person, to me that's crossing a very definite line that should *not* be crossed. The actors are *real people*, and no one should write fiction about them any more than anyone should write fiction about any other real life person. It seems rude and intrusive, and the thought that someone may be including family members sounds creepy. Stalker like.If I were an actor, I don't think I'd mind people writing fanfic over a character I played. That character wouldn't be *me*. But I'd be pissed as hell, and frightened, to find that someone wrote fiction about *me*, personally, and heaven forbid, included my family. I'd probably be calling a lawyer, real quick. 
: The first time I came across real person fiction, I didn't know what it was and started reading. I was honestly appalled! I stopped reading and never have read any more of that stuff. I find it rude, offensive, and possibly illegal, not just "impolite." I don't read het, but for those who like it, fine, have at it! To each his own, but real person fic truly crosses a line. If I were an actor and came across that written about me, I'd be livid. Just being honest. 
: It’s true that there’s no shortage of internet clips where celebrities faced with RPF cringe in response, and most naysayers say writing about living people without their permission is a violation of consent. But a form of RPF about contemporary figures happens all the time in mainstream literature and film. For example, The Social Network, which won dozens of awards, portrayed the inner personal life of Mark Zuckerberg without his permission. For as much as we tend to enshrine the idea of the “rights” to someone’s life, legally there’s not much we can do when they’re violated. 
Characterization in RPF
A frequent question around RPF is, "who are we writing?" How can there be an RPF character when a real person exists? 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.
From Episode 40: Extravaganza of the Be The Serpent Podcast:
Freya: ...I agree that it should not be, sort of, widely publicised in such a way that it may come to the attention of the people involved, because it’s not about them, like it’s about character, it’s about a certain facet of whatever that person’s facade that they present to the world, snagging on something that people find narratively interesting, and wanting to tell stories about it.
Within RPF fandoms, there are debates over fanon characterization as there are in FPF fiction.
Boundaries in RPF
One topic of debate in RPF is who can be written about. Non-famous family members were usually off-limits. For example, Tallific, a Metallica mailing list founded in 1999, had a "No Wives" rule. However, this rule was never universal, and in the age of social media where relatives of famous people are also online, the line between famous and nonfamous is blurred. In One Direction fandom in the 2010s, many otherwise nonfamous people associated with the band are on social media, and bandmembers' parents appeared in the band's films and on The X-Factor. Meanwhile, in Bandom in the 2000s, many of the wives were well-known or famous, so the nonfamous rule didn't apply.
It is considered taboo to talk about shipping to the people involved. However with tinhats comes the problem of Tinhats and the Fourth Wall. There are some tinhats who make no effort to hide their beliefs or attempts to spread "the truth" and there are creators who make no attempt to hide their derision for fans.
A related concern is the danger of the subjects of RPF finding and reading RPF about themselves. Some fans care more than others. See also Bandom and the Fourth Wall, Hockey RPF and the Fourth Wall, and RPS and privacy.
- RPF Boundaries - 2014 thread on fail_fandomanon
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.
In 2020, a fan posted an update to a 2015 Harry Styles/Louis Tomlinson story they had written:
I wanted to make a note that five years after writing this, I no longer agree with RPF (real person fiction) and I do not write fic about real people anymore. I understand that Harry and Louis are real people whom I do not know, and that they are not defined by the characters we make them out to be. I thought about orphaning this but decided to share what I've learned instead. If you choose to read fic like this, please proceed with the understanding that real people are not characters. We should always ask ourselves: If this was about me, would I be comfortable reading it? If not, then consider clicking away and reading something else. Hope you understand. -M 
Acceptance of RPF, Acceptance of Slash
Levels of acceptance towards different kinds of fanworks has been a fluid one, and it seems there is always enough shaming of fans by other fans to go around: a fan in 2004 posted on a mailing list that she'd prefer to "leave my concerns about the author's mental state out of" discussions of why fans wrote, and by extension read, RPF. Another fan replied that it "was not that long ago since comments about the mental state of people writing *slash* were commonplace, and still are, dependent on where you go in various fandoms." 
From the 2004 article Franz Ferdinand Don't Mind Being Coupled With Morrissey In Gay Fan Fiction, written by ChartAttack writer Sarah Kurchak about Franz Ferdinand's slash fandom:
Singer Alex Kapranos has recently stumbled on this world and he’s fascinated with the results. [...] "I think it’s brilliant. It’s really, really funny. And I like that sort of thing cause it means that there’s people who have imagination who are inspired by your personality and the things that you’ve done, so it’s a good thing," he says. "There’s absolutely nothing wrong with fictionalizing a genuine character as long as you make it clear that you are fictionalizing, which I think all that slash stuff does. I think it gets dangerous when people start believing that those things are actually true, and I think for the obvious majority of people that that’s not going to be the case.
A fan in 2019 wrote:
... I do think there's a lot more real person fiction. Maybe social media has pulled the barriers between us and celebrities down, people don't feel as weird about infringing on others' privacy, some even feel entitled to it. 
The Libertines and RPF
Pete Doherty and Carl Barât from The Libertines are a popular RPF ship in Bandslash. In a 2006 interview for Boyz Magazine, Carl was asked about RPF involving him and Peter.
There are loads of gay erotic fantasy stories about you and Pete being lovers on the internet, does that bother you?
C: I completely advocate creative thought, and if people want to make up stories, I am flattered to be involved. I don't mind it at all really. I'd rather people did creative things than did nothing or negative things or talking shit in forums.
D: I would be quite flattered I think.
C: Didz is hoping someone might very well do it for him as well. You just need to work out which band member you'd like to be with. (laughs) Even if it's not sexual, I wish there was more things to advocate creative writing.
D: Stories like ‘Carl Slays Dragon'.
C: That's like a personal fantasy - me slaying a dragon in a particularly tight suit of armour.
D: Chain mail really…
C: Who else have they written stories about? Morrissey and Marr and the guys from Suede…
D: Well, that's an obvious one, that's like saying the guys from Right Said Fred.
Real Person Fanart
from Leonard Nimoy Association of Fans Yearbook - portrays Leonard Nimoy and his family, artist is Karen Flanery (1972)
from The Nimoyan #4, artist is Ev Turner, portrays Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, and Gene Roddenberry: "They are still getting it all together..." (1973)
some Gene Roddenberry/Majel Barrett/Spock speculation, from Tal Shaya #2, the artist is Laura Virgil (1974)
from Satire Trek Comicordance, artist not credited, portrays David Gerrold (1975)
from Star Trek Today #6 (1975), artists are Burt Libe and Cara Sherman
from Satire Trek Comicordance, artist not credited, Gene Roddenberry puts that in his pipe and smokes it (1975)
from Pegasus #5, the artist is Karen River, portrays Mark Hamill's small son (1981)
from Well of the Souls #1, artist is Sheila Truax, "Fun with George & Steven" (1982)
George Lucas in Crossed Sabers #3, artist is Lin Stack (1983)
from Shootout #2, artist is Ruth Kurz, portrays David Soul (who portrayed Kenneth Hutchinson) and his small son (1983)
Paul Darrow on a Blake's 7 set, the artist is Kathy Hanson, published in Down and Unsafe #3 (1985)
Chris Boucher, Vere Lorrimer, Oscar Wilde in some Blake's 7 meta commentary, the artist is Kathy Hanson, published in Down and Unsafe #3 (1985)
Paul Darrow in Southern Seven #4, artist is Karen River (1988)
from She Walks in Beauty #1, artist is Sue Krinard, portrays the character Catherine Chandler and the character Vincent Wells (who looks like the actor Ron Perlman) from Beauty and the Beast (TV) (1990)
Real Person Fanfiction
- I'm Not Scared, Man, You're Scared, Archived version (Rhett McLaughlin/Link Neal of Rhett & Link) by thenthekneehits
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.
- What We Keep - RPF Shared universe began by poisontaster in the story, A Kept Boy.
- The Establishment - an RPF RPG.
- Handbasket News - an RPF newsletter.
- Slashass - slash fiction community with an associated efiction archive focused on several related reality TV, movie, and music RPF fandoms: Jackass, CKY Movies, Wildboyz, and CKY
- Diometrik - a German language RPS Yahoo Groups mailing list
Some RPF Pages on Fanlore
- See also: Category:Celebrities & Real People
- Category:Actor RPF
- Category:Music RPF
- Historical RPF
- Political RPF
- Pundit RPF
- Reality TV RPF
- Royalty RPF
- Sports RPF
- Category:RPF Fan Interviews
- Category:RPF Meta
Meta and Further Reading
- See Timeline of RPF Meta for links listed chronologically.
- Also see Category:RPF Meta.
- ^ 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.
- ^ 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.
- ^ 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.
- ^ This is William J. Palmer's Mr. Dickens series, published in 1990 and reprinted in 2015 by Diversion Books.
- ^ In The Prince and the Munshi by Orlando Pearson.
- ^ In Sherlock Holmes and the Mysterious Friend of Oscar Wilde by Russell A. Brown.
- ^ Three comments by long-time fans in 1995: "If *anybody* has ever seen and read one of these alleged "actor" slash stories for themselves, especially one that has been circulated and/or published, I would love to hear about it," and "I've never seen a slash story that used the actors themselves. I as don't know anyone who has either. If I ever did see one, I would consider it offensive," and "If such a thing had been published, yes, those 'involved' would have every right to be *very, very* upset with the perpetrators, but I have yet to see proof that it has been." -- comments by Ann W, Judith P, and Ruth S respectively at Lysator, April, 1995.
- ^ See the Purple Pages.
- ^ There is more than one Professionals story where Martin Shaw acted as an actor-matchmaker to Bodie and Doyle. [find stories]
- ^ Personal memory, and "ADMIN: Thinly disguised real names", accessed October 3, 2008
- ^ This is typo in the quote, as the comments were posted in 1993. This fan likely meant 1985.
- ^ The Brontës at war: how Charlotte and Branwell brought Waterloo into their drawing room. BBC's History Extra, April 29, 2016.
- ^ Mike Sterling, This is the most I have ever written about tampons posted November 12, 2009, accessed March 25, 2010; WebCite.
- ^ dejla. Some thoughts about RPF... dated September 15, 2003; reference link.
- ^ 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.
- ^ from an LoC in The World of Dark Shadows #16/17
- ^ Kathy L. in an email to Speranza, Feb 27, 2010
- ^ The Hatstand Express #7
- ^ 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.
- ^ ADMIN: Real People slash et al, in: RareSlash (Yahoo!Groups), 24 January 2000, accessed 28 March 2010
- ^ RareSlash-X (http://web.archive.org/web/20061115144429/http://groups.yahoo.com:80/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.
- ^ Comment by klangley56 in goodnightsong's livejournal post The subject of slash, dated June 1, 2008; accessed Feb. 9, 2011; WebCite.
- ^ Marythefan, 2002-11-23, accessed April 27, 2010
- ^ comment in "How I discovered U2 slash" post at u2slash dated November 21, 2002; reference link.
- ^ Dara Sue's LJ, 2003-07-30
- ^ angstslashhope, 2004-10-14, accessed April 27, 2010
- ^ (Nicole V, post to Virgule-L, 1992 -- quoted with permission
- ^ anonymous conversation on private list, archived by sherrold
- ^ anonymous conversation on private list, archived by sherrold
- ^ March 25, 1993, quoted anonymously from Virgule-L
- ^ comment at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (May 24, 1993)
- ^ comments at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (November 4, 1993)
- ^ Richard Burgi chat transcript, comment to a transcript alt.tv.sentinel, February 1999
- ^ posted on the Flewelling yahoogroup mailing list, Dec 11, 2004 (dead link).
- ^ comment by a pro-RPS fan summarizing the arguments against RPS in a August 2005 fanthropology thread RPF!, Archived version; reference link.
- ^ some anti-RPS arguments that I do not understand a list of anti-RPS reasons along with counter-points debunking them dated March 24, 2005; reference link
- ^ from The Pits Mailing List, quoted anonymously (Feb 8, 2005)
- ^ from a fan on Senad, quoted anonymously (17 Jan 2013)
- ^ Tonya Riley. The Dubious Ethics of "Real-Person Fiction", posted to Medium.com 12 January 2018, includes this link You Tube
- ^ Episode 40: Extravaganza, JULY 31, 2019
- ^ Your Eyes Are Like Starlight by marvelsmostwanted
- ^ quoted anonymously from a private list, October 13, 2004
- ^ Historical trends in fan fiction? (2019)
- ^ "DPT in Boyz: dptband — LiveJournal". 2006-07-12. Archived from the original on 2022-03-19.
- ^ "dachelle (no subject)". 2007-10-08. Archived from the original on 2022-03-19.