Real Person Fiction (Fanfic Symposium essay)

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Title: Real Person Fiction
Creator: Kristina Busse
Date(s): October 30, 2005
Medium: online
Topic: Fanfiction, Slash, Real Person Fiction
External Links: Real People Fiction, Archived version
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Real Person Fiction is a very long essay by Kristina Busse.

It is part of the Fanfic Symposium series.


  • History
  • Ethical and Legal Objections
  • Fiction, Reality, and Collaborative Fantasy Spaces
  • Canon and Its Consensual Creation
  • Bodies--Virtual, Real, Imaginary
  • Alternate Universes, Casting Fic, and Playing Roles
  • LJ, Slashing the Slasher, and Performing Identities

Closing Paragraphs

In fact, I would argue that on some level, the way fans interact with one another closely resembles the way we imagine celebrities. Obviously, we do not and cannot ever know the true (veridical) self of any celebrity--in the very process of allowing the media into their private lives, the 'trueness' gets erased. So all we pretty much have to go by are the performances we are offered, the footage, the behind the scenes, etc. Some of that may be real; other parts may be consciously constructed and performed. We do not and cannot know how much of what we see is performed and how much is real--all we have is the public persona. When we write the celebrity, however, we imagine what the "true" version underneath could look like; in other words, we create a fictional real self, extrapolated from the public persona we see. That creation is not quite like the public persona (for one thing, if we slash him, we certainly have changed his "official" sexual orientation :-) and he may or may not be like the "real" person (depending on our ability to extrapolate and just pure chance).

Similarly, I would argue, we ourselves exist on multiple layers of identity so that a character who is defined by these layers of hiding and secrecy resonates with us. How many of us are "out" as slashers? How many are "out" as boyband (or whatever other celebrity) fans? How much of what we show to others is the "real" us (both in RL and online)? So it seems to me that much of the fannish online interaction is a modified version of RPF (mostly clearly visible in things like lust threads or challenges like ). In other words, just like there is real!celebrity; performance public!celebrity, and the extrapolated fictionallyreal!celebrity, there is real!me, LJ!me, and whatever "real" persona one might extrapolate from the information, tone, ethos, they have picked up in my LJ. So in Slashing the Slasher the writer doesn't necessarily take people she knows in RL and write them getting down and dirty...but takes personas and expands a fictional universe for them.

And while LJ and fandom offer a particularly perfect version of these personas, effectively we do this every time we interact. After all, while an online acquaintance is clearly a fictional product extrapolated from the source material of her LJ and/or other interactions, any real person I meet is similarly an extrapolation of the information she discloses and the face to meet the faces that she meets, a creation of their (fictionally "real") persona. We all play roles; we all interact with versions of our interlocutors. So, while RPF may work particularly well as an identificatory space for online fannish folks, it seems to move toward a much larger truth about who we are, who we think we are, how we present ourselves, and how others see us.