I’m a regular consumer of fan-created products – I read fanfiction, watch fanvids, and enjoy fanart in a variety of fandoms, and often enjoy those products almost as much as I enjoy the original works. In fanfiction, I definitely have specific tastes about pairings, settings, canon-compliance, etc. I’ve blogged in the past about fanfiction that makes me uncomfortable, but there’s one entire genre that I really dislike – real person fiction (RPF).
I usually avoid RPF entirely, but I’ve been working on a submission for the Wil Wheaton/John Scalzi Fan Fiction Contest to Benefit the Lupus Alliance of America, which asks writers to create a short piece of fanfiction to explain a largely inexplicable work of art featuring those two geek celebrities. So I am not just thinking about RPF, I am writing RPF. Ugh. And this has taken me places that I didn’t really want to go in fannishness.
I wanted to write a story that captures aspects of John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton, their personalities and their personal lives. This means I have to do research. On present-day, living people whose blogs I read. This feels really, really creepy. To carry my plot, I needed to know a little about Wil Wheaton’s family tree. Looking at genealogical information made me feel like a stalker. Finding out about his favorite arcade games and favorite beers was slightly less creepy, as he has blogged about those things. But I feel like an intruder when I need to dig a little deeper.
When I see RPF, it often concerns me that the creators don’t see the line between fantasy and reality, that they’re blurring the characters with the people who portray them. Writing about a sexual relationship between two real people, who you don’t know, that frequently discards and disrespects their real personal lives… it’s creepy. I suppose it’s related to fannish obsessions with specific actors because of a love for the characters they play. I find it even weirder when the fiction isn’t about actors that play other characters – like Mythbusters slash fic. Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman are real people with families and separate lives outside of the show. I can’t find any excuse for writing a story that ignores the fact that they are each married (or, worse, has them cheating on their wives) to place them together. (And crap, now I had to look up info about Adam and Jamie for their personal details! It burns us.)
I suppose I could modify my story to omit the details that take me places that I don’t really want to go. But that also means omission of the little nuances that make my characters closer to the real people, that would hopefully give me an edge on realism and resonance with the real people I’m writing about. Or I could accept that these are two blogging, tweeting celebrities who regularly put themselves in the public eye. I’ve tried to be very considerate about the details I’m including, and perhaps that’s the best I can do. I’m avoiding anything that can’t easily be discovered through their own websites, Wikipedia, or a really quick Google search. I guess that makes me feel slightly better?
At least the contest prohibited explicit sex. I… can’t wrap my brain around the alternative.