Bandfic as RPF
ActorFic is traditional media fan fic, bandfic is not fan fiction and there is no such thing as Real Person Fic
By Laura Hale
This essay was originally published May 2006 on FanHistory.com
The fan fiction community is big, vast and extremely diverse. It exists off-line and on-line. It gets studied and analyzed both in terms of the content of the literature and the formation of the communities. One of the dangers seems to be in lumping disparate fan fiction communities together and treating them as if they all had the same history, same membership, same terminology, same general content.
The content differentiation in fan fiction stories is often used as an artificial divide in order to discuss different communities in fan fiction. One of the most frequently cited ways of diving fan fiction communities is RPF (real person fic) and FPF (fictional person fic). Bzt! In the world according to me, this arbitrary division of fan fiction communities based on content alone is not an accurate one.
Er. This is probably the point where I should say that the more I learn about fan fiction and the history, the more I think fan fiction is not a genre of literature but a genre of literature coupled with a specific culture. Some definitions of fan fiction are so broad and all encompassing that all fictional literature and some non-fiction end up being classified as fan fiction. This broad definition makes it difficult to discuss what is actually going on in fannish communities.
Now, back to the division of RPF and FPF. This division is totally arbitrary. It based on content value that is not always true as it fails to address certain issues, nor requantify material that is based on material that is non-fiction in orientation. Or a piece of fan fiction based on the movie Erin Brockovich would be quantified as FPF even though the movie is based on a real person. Fictionalized accounts of historical figures are lumped into FPF except when they are based on research done by the fan fiction writer. Reality television show fan fiction fits into neither category comfortably. Fan fiction based on the WWE also has similar problems in being grouped. These divisions do not stand up to scrutiny when examined as many works present in popular culture frequently borrow or include references to real people. Think “The Simpsons” and “Saturday Night Live.”
ActorFic tends to clearly fit what could easily be considered that Real Person Fic mold. It does not have the arbitrary problems of what is real and what is not. It is clearly based on real people. But ActorFic shares very little in common with bandfic, the biggest chunk of the “Real Person Fic” pie. It does not share a history, terminology, culture, nor content type with bandfic. ActorFic does, on the other hand, share a history, a culture, terminology and content similarities with “Fictional Person Fic,” or what I like to call “traditional media based fan fiction.” ActorFic, contrary to what Henry Jenkins asserts in his interview with Wired Magazine, came out of traditional media based fan fiction communities. It wasn’t always liked by that community, but then again, slash and Mary Sues aren’t always liked by those communities either and no one denies those things as being part of the culture of fan fiction. The players for ActorFic are generally the same ones who are involved in traditional media based fan fiction communities. The players for ActorFic are not the same ones as bandfic.
Bandfic, if you don’t know, is huge but it is oddly not all that huge on LiveJournal. It is at its biggest on-line at FanDomination.Net, on Yahoo! Groups, on RockFic, on DeadJournal, on Quizilla, on FanWorks.Org and in a number of other places. This community, historically, hasn’t really done zines in the way that traditional media fan fiction communities do zines. Stories and discussion of the material that appear in zines are found amongst other content. There are few zines from the bandfic community that soley contain fan fiction. And for that matter, finding this material is even more difficult because it wasn’t called fan fiction by this community. This community totally lacked the terminology of traditional media fan fiction. Slash, Mary Sues, drabbles, RPF, FPF, ActorFic, canon, constructive criticism, songfic: all of these terms were alien to this community. Even now, as the community of bandfic writers begins and began to interact with traditional media fan fiction communities, these concepts don’t always carry into the community. When they do, they tend to take on totally different meanings. Mary Sues, in this community, are understood to be any author created female character which appears in the story. The members of these communities are not the same. While some fan fiction featuring popular music stars is written by traditional media fen with their own traditional media fan fiction community background, these fen are the minority and generally are not integrated into the larger community. The cultural and writing practices of bandfic writers, the content of bandfic stories are generally so different from traditional media fan fiction communities that I’m left wondering if bandfic is fan fiction as most people understand it. My own answer is no.
So in conclusion, Real Person Fic (RPF)/Fictional Person Fic (FPF) do not exist because of lack of meaning to the terms, bandfic isn’t fan fiction because of cultural and content issues which differentiates it from most traditional media fan fiction, and ActorFic is traditional media fan fiction because of a shared history, culture and content.
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