RPF (Real Person Fiction) is one of those things I have lots of thinky thoughts about, but nearly always bring up tangentally in some broader FPF (Fictional Person Fiction) conversation such it doesn’t really get explored. But I’ve been sitting on a link of vague interest in this regard for ages, and since we’re still in this zone where Time magazine makes us talk about fanfiction a lot, now seems like the time to share.
RPF is a funny animal, in that is has a lot of different purposes if one’s going to argue for any agenda or intent beyond just telling a story. RPF shows up in satire (e.g., the Guardian on Clegg/Cameron), literary fiction (e.g., The Imagined Life of James Dean), historical fiction (e.g., The Other Boleyn Girl), professionally published erotica (e.g., Starf*cker), and, of course, unpaid, community/audience-oriented fanfiction (e.g., Bandom, PunditSlash, and more). And because I love backstage stories of all varieties, whether they be fictional (e.g., Kiss Me Kate, Moulin Rouge) or not, I’m completely fascinated by it.
This isn’t an abstract, look-at-the-bug-under-glass fascination. After all, I’m in fandom; and hence fandom and its foibles is not the Other. I’ve even run into RPF about people I know (an experience which has proved to be more bizarre than awkward) and have encountered many, many ethical discussions about RPF (which are important, if not always compelling). And yes, I am also perfectly aware of the “fanfiction authors write RPF about other fanfic authors” meme.
For me, the fascination is absolutely, positively about the process of fame and the nature of celebrity. How do people — fictional or fictional versions of real people’s already somewhat fictional public personas — navigate private life under public scrutiny? When I’ve read RPF, speculation and argument about that is generally what’s driving my interest. Hell, arguably, that’s what’s also driving some of my interest in Twitter: the ability to witness part of a process — actual, fictionalized or fictional — generally outside of my ability to access.
Anyway, while I know this is far from the only reason people read RPF, I have to assume it’s a reason I’m not alone in. That reason is also one that, if simplified, pretty much boils down to the reader asking questions like “Holy crap, how does that work?” or “If presented with this set of choices I can’t even comprehend, what ridiculousness would I commit?”
Which is pretty much why my eyes bugged out of my head when I heard that a fanfiction author who goes by Neaf wrote a piece of RPF involving Glee cast members in a “Choose Your Own Adventure” format. Thus the fic in question can be a friendship fic or a relationship fic or a porn fic or an angsty dramarama fic, and so involves a significant (yet unspoken) acknowledgement of the degree to which RPF may often be something read from the context of self-insertion, even without the overt presence of a Mary Sue.
Neaf’s story, no matter how you feel about the existence of RPF at all, is a pretty fascinating case of (to borrow a phrase clumsily) the medium being the meta.
That’s all I’ve got for you on this beautiful Saturday. But before you check the fic out: remember that this might squick you, remember to read warnings, remember I am not offering a value judgement on RPF good or bad, and please play nice in comments; I know RPF discussions can get seriously heated.