Episode 80: Real Person Fiction
Elizabeth and Flourish are joined by Aja Romano, internet culture writer at Vox, to discuss RPF: writing fiction about celebrities and other real, living people. Topics covered include stigma towards RPF within fandom and in the broader culture; the many ways real people turn up in all sorts of art; and what happens when a celebrity encounters online discourse about themselves. They also discuss a listener message about one of Fansplaining’s favorite topics: fandom, capitalism, and the monetization of fanworks.
[00:03:56] Gretchen McCulloch covered smush ship names in The Toast a long time ago, and it’s worth a reread.
[00:06:27] The music here, and elsewhere in the episode is “Day Bird” by Broke For Free, used under a CC-BY license.
[00:15:20] “Performance in a Leading Role” is a very well known Sherlock fanfic — well known enough that it’s got its own Fanlore page.
[00:16:16] Rahmbamarama, as a LiveJournal community, may be defunct, but shockingly the Tumblr tag is still downright active.
[00:17:04] Kathy Larsen’s Bundy erotic fanfic article isn’t online as the work is in progress (as far as we know), but we talked about it in Episode 78!
[00:18:29] Aja’s stream of consciousness Robert Downey Jr fic is “Hot, rock, sun, fly, tongue.”
[00:22:33] Flourish CANNOT FOR THE LIFE OF HER find this Anne Boleyn article, which was by…some person who is a public historian and maybe once wrote for The Toast? UGH, DID ANYONE READ THIS THING?
[00:24:10] It was NOT Caity Weaver, a journalist who does things like this, who profiled Tom Hiddleston, it was Taffy Brodesser-Akner and we are very sorry.
[00:26:56] The Diana Gabaldon Rant Incident has been well covered on this podcast and also on Fanlore.
[00:32:20] Kevin Spacey, yikes. We don’t know where to start. Google it.
[00:50:52] My Brother, My Brother & Me, “an advicecast for the modern era.”
[00:52:16] What a great excuse for a picture of Flourish’s dog in a sweater!
Flourish Klink: Hi Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi Flourish!
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom.
ELM: This is episode number 80, entitled “Real Person Fiction.”
FK: “Real Person Fiction,” and we are going to have Aja Romano, Internet Culture Reporter for Vox, on as our guest. Aja is not just a reporter, they are also a longtime fan—
ELM: And fanfiction writer! RPF writer! What’s the opposite of RPF? FPF?
FK: Okay, wait wait wait. We can’t go down this rabbit hole before we explain what RPF is. For anyone who doesn’t know, “real person fiction” is stories about real, living people. Usually celebrities, not always.
ELM: Yeah, and so this is a practice within fan communities. And one of the great ironies of people’s disdain for RPF inside fandom and in the mainstream outside fandom, because it is something that people, it’s one of the things within fanfiction that people tend to zero in on and say, “Well, that’s the line I won’t cross,” that kind of thing, is that people fiction about real people, even living people, is very common in TV, in movies and books. So this is a practice within fandom that’s labeled as such, but it’s funny because it’s so common, and not labeled in a special way. You know what I mean?
FK: It’s funny that you say that it’s zeroed in on, because when I think about it, you’re right, but also, a lot of times when I talk to people who have no interaction with fandom at all and are thinking about it for the first time, they’ll say something like, “Oh yeah, I used to write stories about myself and insert-famous-celebrity-here,” you know what I mean? It’s a really, really common thing that I think people who think about fandom quickly get upset about, but a lot of people who are not in the fandom sphere just don’t even think about or think, “Oh yeah, of course, everyone does this. It’s the same thing as fantasizing about a celebrity, you just wrote it down. Who cares?” Right.
ELM: Sure, or, so much of our celebrity journalism culture, entertainment journalism, is about speculation about celebrities’ private lives, you know, attempts to get access, celebrity profiles, that kind of thing. It’s all sorts of things. RPF is a way to engage with some of that, but it’s even a bit more deliberate. You really signpost that what you’re doing is fiction, in a way that entertainment journalism sometimes doesn’t. You know, the magazines you see at the grocery store check out line. I was just in the suburbs, they don’t actually have this in New York, but at the Rite Aid or Walgreens register.
FK: Yeah, yeah. Totally. I think there’s also a lot of things that are adjacent to real person fiction. There’s stuff like, obviously you mentioned, there’s 10 billion literary situations that we could name that feature real people. There’s also the political reporting stuff that’s like, I wrote a thing about these political figures that’s intended to deceive, sometimes not intended to deceive, right? Usually not intended to deceive.
ELM: Manip, short for manipulation, that’s the kind of—I don’t know, is that term used outside of fandom? I only ever see it in fandom.
FK: I’m not sure. Anyways, there’s this and also shipping, which is just thinking like, “Oh, those two would be a cute couple,” or “I really want them to break up,” which is obviously back to that celebrity magazine piece. In fact, the fandom way that people make smush ship names, I don't know. What’s a good one? Dramione, Draco and Hermione.
ELM: That’s a good one?
FK: That’s a bad one.
ELM: That’s a terrible one. No offense, Draco/Hermione shippers.
FK: It’s not the ship, it’s the name that we protest. But we think that comes from “Brangelina,” which was the first ship smush name, which was from celebrity journalism.
ELM: Wait, was Brangelina before Bennifer?
FK: Oh, I don’t know! I’m not sure.
ELM: I just wanted to say “Bennifer” out loud.
FK: Oh my God.
ELM: I don’t even know. Who was the B? Ben Affleck?
FK: The B in Bennifer? Yeah. Ben Affleck.
ELM: And Jennifer Aniston.
FK: I think it was Jennifer Lopez.
ELM: I don’t know!
FK: I’m over here envisioning how the world of celebrities has totally shifted and Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck were together at some point. I don’t know!
ELM: That’s my RPF. Anyway, and then, to make this ecosystem even muddier, you have real person shipping practices, that turn into, so some people, like the idea of a real couple together, just for fun. Some people believe they’re uncovering the truth, conspiracy theories, tinhatting. Those are practices that get really muddied even within fan spaces, outside of fan spaces. The spaces around real person shipping are pretty muddled, because that intersects with real person fiction too. I could be a, for example, I could love Larry Stylinson fanfiction, just as an example, that’s Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, but have no strong feelings about whether they’ve ever been together, whether they are together, et cetera. And then on the farther end of the spectrum, I could have strong feelings that they were, or I could believe there’s some conspiracy theory etc. And all these people are existing within the same space and say, “Oh yeah, I like Larry RPF.”
ELM: And that can mean wildly different things.
ELM: And I think that’s where some of the tensions come too, because you could say, “My lines are, I like to imagine them as a couple, but I would never write stories about them.” Or you could say, “Oh, I only like to write fictional stories about them, but thinking about their real lives? They’re just constructions, they’re just characters.”
FK: Right, “Envisioning them as a real couple or thinking about their real lives, that’s too far. I only write fiction.”
ELM: Yeah, exactly, I think that’s why this gets really messy really fast.
FK: All right, I think that was a wonderful introduction to RPF, if we do say so ourselves.
ELM: Wonderful. All right. Oversell it much?
FK: Should we call Aja now?
ELM: Yeah, let’s call them!
FK: OK, I think it’s time to welcome Aja to the podcast. Hi, Aja!
Aja Romano: Hi! I’m so happy to be here. Finally!
ELM: We’re very happy to have you, and I want it stated on the record that it hasn’t been a deliberate snubbing or delay, it just—
AR: No! I didn't think that it was. I’m just really happy to be here at last. Love you.
ELM: Okay, good. Well, we love you too and we’re very excited to talk to you. I think a lot of our listeners probably will know who you are in some capacity, but do you want to give them a brief summary? Your fannish professionalism? Your fannish amateurism? Your… [AR laughs]
FK: Your professional fannishness?
ELM: Yeah, I didn’t say these words right, but you can do it.
AR: I can try. I’m Aja, I’m a culture reporter for Vox. Before that, I was a fandom reporter for The Daily Dot, and before that, I wrote about fandom and the internet for The Mary Sue for about a year. I’m a longtime member of fandom. My first fandom was the Jane Austen fandom way back in 1998, and I think I’m probably most well known for being in Harry Potter fandom in the early aughts, and that’s pretty much what I do.
ELM: You don’t think you’re now more well known for single-handedly dragging the Inception fandom along for six years?
AR: No, that’s not, I don’t think that that was really, that wasn’t me. I think you guys are underestimating the amount of sheer loyalty people have for Inception.
ELM: I don’t want to underestimate anyone else in the Inception fandom, but it is undeniable that the sheer force of you as a fic writer, you’re one of those fic writers—
AR: I disagree! I really disagree. I don’t think I’m one of the fic writers who can drag people into a new fandom. I don’t think I ever have been. I think that I just happened to be there early and just happened to like it a lot and stuck it out, and people were really nice and I didn’t leave, so then when new people came in I was the only person there.
FK: Oh my God.
ELM: OK, so to bring it around to the subject of our episode. I’m going to continue to disagree with your false modesty, maybe it’s not false modesty, but misplaced, because you’re writing RPF right now about these Angels in America actors, and I’ve seen people leaving you messages on Tumblr being like, “Well because you’re writing it, I’m reading it.” So it’s undeniable that you have fans of your writing that you can take to a new—just take it. Take this, it’s a compliment, accept it.
AR: It’s a very lovely compliment. I’ve also been unfollowed by like, 20 people. So!
ELM: Sure, all right! It is what it is.
AR: So it’s very freeing.
FK: Do you think that you’re being unfollowed because any time you get into a new fandom, people are like, “Yeah, I’m not into that, peace out?” Or do you think it’s because it’s specifically RPF?
AR: You know, I really haven’t posted this much, I’m posting so much at once, and I haven’t been active on Tumblr in like two years. I’ve just been busy and dormant, so it could be the shock of seeing me pop up again, people could be like, “Who is this person, where have they been?”
ELM: Not gonna lie, I’ve thought about muting Andrew Garfield the last couple of days because of you.
AR: That is what Tumblr Savior is for, my friend. Go for it.
ELM: Sure. I’m not gonna unfollow you.
AR: I would much rather you mute me than unfollow me. That’s why I tag everything.
FK: Can I just say, if there is anyone listening to this podcast that does not know about Tumblr Savior, there may be, it’s a way that you can not see certain posts on Tumblr, so if you’re stressed—
AR: It’s also on XKit, if you have XKit, you can do the blacklist in XKit.
ELM: Folks, you don’t need either of those anymore. Tumblr finally built this functionality into the platform itself, so I highly recommend you use that, because then it mutes them on mobile as well.
AR: Oh, that’s good to know.
FK: See, this shows how much I use Tumblr.
ELM: Neither of you understand Tumblr at all, that’s fine. Yeah, if you go into your profile settings, there’s a place where you can—I don’t remember what the exact term is, but it’s basically just a list of mutes, and you should see my list. It’s quite long.
AR: Like, my XKit list has always contained like, every Tom in the universe except Tom Hardy. It’s just the word “Tom” blacklisted. It’s always worked very well for me.
FK: You know, I haven’t used Tumblr in so long that my list at the time that I kept one was like, everything to do with Glee, so that’s what sad about this.
AR: I had Tom and “babies”, those were my top two.
ELM: What Toms are you hating on? Like Tom Felton? Hiddleston?
AR: All Toms. Tom Hiddleston, Spider-Man Tom, Superman Tom.
ELM: Aww, Spider-Man Tom? He’s so pure!
AR: Eh. Whatever. They’re all the same to me. All the Toms. All the Chrises.
ELM: Is it because you have this loyalty to Andrew Garfield and you don’t like any other Spider-Man?
AR: You’re being condescending. [ELM laughs]
FK: OK, no, this interesting, because one of the reasons we wanted to have you on now in particular is because you’re getting into real person fiction fandom, a particular real person fiction fandom right now, and I have some theories about how real person fandoms are working at the moment that are different than in the past.
AR: I think the type of RPF that I tend to write has not been normal RPF. So, I think probably the way I see it and think about it is probably different than the way that other people do.
FK: OK, wait. So what do you think normal RPF is, and what are you writing?
AR: So, I’m not gonna say that I don’t write normal RPF, but I think in general, people are drawn to the celebrities, and they ship them together, or they ship themselves with the celebrity, and they write those fics. Basically I think they write fic tropes and they apply them to real people. I think that’s what most people do.
ELM: Okay. You have a ship.
FK: That seems pretty normal to my experience of RPF. People have a ship and they’re like, “They’re so cute together, let’s write that.”
AR: Right, and I wanna say that not all but a whole lot of the RPF I’ve written over my lifetime has been about exploring these people’s relationship to the work that they are creating, often with homosexulity or homoeroticism or some type of self-aware meta-knowledge of their relationship to the text and the text’s relationship to a larger conversation with society.
FK: So you’re saying that your RPF is kind of more, at least what you’re writing right now, is that it’s actually about Angels in America—
FK: But you’re writing about Andrew Garfield because you wanna write about Angels in America, not because you wanna write about Andrew Garfield.
AR: Yes, exactly. And that’s how I’ve always, I think the most successful fic I’ve ever written was in Merlin fandom, and it was a Merlin RPF fic that was literally all about the queerbaiting in Merlin and how the actors were reacting to that and learning about themselves through that. And that is something that I just keep exploring over and over again. I keep writing about these stories where the actors or entertainers, whoever they are, have to go through some sort of reckoning about the work that they’re producing and its social responsibility, and their social responsibility to their audience, and to themselves, and to the work, and how all that relates to their sexuality, that’s what I love about it.
ELM: OK, so it seems to me though, and this is more for Flourish—although Aja, I know you’ve read bandom stuff too. From all of the 1D fic that I’ve heard about that’s not an AU, and I know there’s a high number of AUs, it seems like the ones that are “canon” are like this. They’re more a meta-commentary of the acknowledgement of the context in which people are consuming them. It seems to be a lot of stuff about construction of celebrity, and obviously with all the 1D fic, there’s a lot of stuff about suppression—I don’t know how much of the fic is about—
FK: To be honest, most 1D fic is AU, and—
ELM: You’ve told me this.
FK: Yeah, I’m just saying, I think you’re right, but I think most of it is AU, and then is usually it’s not an AU that’s exploring this. It might be a little bit, just because different people have different power relationships to each other, but like, not really. Right? Usually in an AU it’s like, “Hey, here’s some attractive people. What if they kissed?” By the way, I’m not judging that. I’m into that.
AR: Yeah, I think you need both. I really love, I was dipping my hand into BTS RPF last month, and I was really trying to find canonical fics, but most of it is AU. I did find one Hollywood AU, that was deconstructing all of this stuff, but in the guise of making them actors, kind of “Performance in a Leading Role”-y than it is constructed in the fic itself—but I think that’s what they’re doing with fic, taking a look at what they’re doing in reality and exploring their real life personas and how that affects them.
FK: Yeah, what I was thinking when you said that just now, Aja, is that—the way you described your RPF seems to have a lot in common with the real person fiction writings by people commenting on politics, for instance. Not to say, I think it’s different because you’re in fandom and obviously interacting and engaging with these other types of RPF too, and usually those other authors aren’t—
AR: I also helmed an entire political fandom. I always forget this, but I was the creator and moderator of the Rahm Emanuel/Barack Obama fandom in 2008.
FK: Oh my God, I forgot the Rahm Emanuel/Barack Obama fandom. I remember that now.
AR: Yeah, the Obamarama, it was this thriving, amazing community.
FK: I was a member of this community.
AR: It was so great, it was such a nice little happy party.
ELM: But your attraction to reading and writing Obama? What’s the ship, Obamarama?
AR: Well, it wasn’t focused on the slash shipping Rahm and Barack, it was just like, “We’re gonna have fun in the White House in 2008.” It was this happy fest, a little bit of everything.
ELM: OK, so still, not shipping necessarily but having fun. This is reminding me, two episodes ago we were talking about some of the stuff that I saw at the Fan Studies Network. Kathy Larson, who is one of the Supernatural Fangasm acafans, gave this great paper about Bundy erotic fanfiction which we discussed on the podcast as length, but I don’t know if you listen to every episode, Aja, so I’ll catch you up. But it was really interesting, because it was talking about, it has been a huge phenomenon, I would say in the last, really ramped up in this past election cycle, but it’s older than this. Basically, people in the mainstream media essentially political RPF. Maureen Dowd has been doing it for 1,000 years in her schlocky way.
AR: Oh God, yes.
ELM: So Kathy, I think, had a really interesting distinction. She was talking about “the act” without the “affect.” You know, for all of these journalists, it’s not because they love Obama or love Trump or whatever, it’s unclear to me why they're doing these pretend, essentially writing fic. It sounds like for you, when you write political RPF, it’s because you have some engagement with the actual characters. You thought they were fun and you wanted to spend time with them. You weren’t—
AR: Or because I’m fascinated by the people. It’s usually a combination of being fascinated by the actors or the celebrities themselves, or the people they’re representing. I wrote this one short fic many years ago, actually, God, like a decade ago. It was around the time that Sherlock Holmes came out, so I guess it would have been around 2009, 2010?
ELM: The Guy Ritchie film?
AR: Yeah. I wrote this, I spent a morning doing a ton of research on Robert Downey Jr., then wrote this weird, drugged-out, Hunter S. Thompson, stream of consciousness point of view fic that was just specifically about him trying to come to terms with his life from that point of view, and it was just like, “Here are the facts of Downey Jr.’s life in this weird, Hunter Thompson experimental thing,” as an attempt to sort of explore how he became sober and how he became who he is now. And then a couple years later, so the fic ends with him actually enacting a real life event that he did, which is that he threw all of his drugs over the cliff after he met Susan Downey. He was like, “no more,” and he threw so much cocaine over the cliff.
AR: On like, I don’t know, a beach. And that’s how my fic ended. Then years later, I was watching Iron Man 3, and it started winding down, and I was like, “Oh God, I know exactly where this is going,” and it ends with Robert Downey as Iron Man throwing his test thingy out over the cliff, and I was like, “Holy shit, I am the only person in this room who understand the impact of that.” And that really stuck with me, because it was this sort of weird validation for me that the things that I’m looking at in terms of who these people are as personalities, and how they relate back to their art, are how real people actually think about their art. Does that make sense?
FK: Yeah, but I think that’s really interesting, because one of the ways that people often defend RPF, right—certainly a way that I’ve defended RPF in the past as a certified writer and reader thereof—is to say, “We’re looking at the personas that are shown to us and we’re constructing someone from those personas, and we know that it’s not the same thing as a real person. And we don’t necessarily want it to be the same thing as the real person. We’re not invested in whether that person is real or not.”
I think there’s limits to this, right, because would I be totally thrilled to discover that the Harry Styles in my head is exactly the same as the real Harry Styles? Of course. Are you kidding? That would be so, that would be very validating I think. But I know at the same time that I shouldn’t want to be validated in that way. I shouldn’t somehow be that emotionally compromised that way. So it’s interesting to hear someone come out and just say, “That means a lot to me.”
AR: It does mean a lot to me, absolutely. But I’m not deluded. I’ve actually been in the weird position of having written RPF and then getting to know the people, some of the people I was actually writing the RPF about, and it’s so weird—
ELM: Like Barack Obama?
AR: Not Barack Obama, but it’s always weird because you’re in that space where you’re going, simultaneously, “Wow, I got this exactly right,” and then, “Wow, I got none of this right.” You never, you can never get it right because you never have the background context or the real history of that person’s life. You can never know that person. And I think that it’s absolutely great that we are all committed to focusing on the personas.
For me, I think the reason we are that way, that we are committed to focusing on the personas, is that the personas are already a collectively constructed identity. It’s not just within that person’s control. It’s also part of the cultural narrative around that person. It’s about how their social media feeds represent them, how the tabloids represent them, how we interpret their personas. The persona is already outside of themselves. So when we interact with the persona instead of the person, we’re already engaging in a shared public space, in a sense. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t also wanna get to know the real person.
FK: This is making me think a lot about reading biographies of historical figures, which is hardly a new thing for someone to say about RPF.
FK: But it really is making me think about, for instance, there was recently an article about—I can’t remember who wrote it and it’s gonna drive me nuts—by a person who writes internet things about history, who was like, “I judge people based on what they think about Anne Boleyn.” You know what I mean? “If you don’t like Anne Boleyn, I don’t like you, bitch.” Basically, that was the summary. And it was really interesting, you know, because on the one hand you can understand a lot about a person, I believe that, based on whether or not they’re initially like, “oh yeah, Anne Boleyn’s awesome,” or if they’re like, “she’s awful,” but at the same time, if we can Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure this thing, she would be nothing like any of this, right?
AR: Right. There’s understanding when we talk about historical RPF that all of these people are social constructs, and that they’re fictional constructs, that doesn’t necessarily always extend to talking about current RPF, and talking about current celebrities, so I always try to be like, “These are exactly the same.” The way that we engage with celebrities, me writing RPF and you shipping Brangelina, this is the same kind of collective construction that we’re doing, the way that we did to the Tudors and the Kennedys and so forth.
FK: But isn’t that one of the reasons that RPF has changed a bit, right? I remember in the ’90s reading Tiger Beat, “I got ice cream with Jonathan Taylor Thomas” as one of the things, literally in an article there.
ELM: Wow, Flourish. That’s adorable. Really getting a sense of you right now.
FK: Well, that was a thing in the teen fan magazines, right. And the reason I think that was OK in those was because there was this sense of a complete gulf between you and the celebrity. You can fantasize about whatever you want, you are literally never gonna meet that person.
AR: Right, but now, it’s so much more interconnected. I’m thinking about, was it Caity Weaver that wrote the Tom Hiddleston profile that was so adorable and great?
ELM: Yeah, that sounds right.
FK: OK, one of you two give a summary of this.
AR: She just spent a couple days hanging out with Tom Hiddleston in London, and he was broken-hearted over Taylor Swift, and she ended up giving him relationship advice, and it was just adorable.
FK: And then the tabloids picked her up as like, the mystery brunette, right?
AR: She was pegged as being, people thought that they were dating, but no, she was just interviewing him for a couple days and they were hanging out, and but the profile came out and it was just really sweet and natural and intimate, and I think that he is such an interesting person to talk about this with, because he has this public persona that’s really removed from who he actually is, and it’s really interesting to see these things come together in this article that’s being mediated by this person who clearly is both trying to be a journalist but also is a fan and also ends up giving him relationship advice. Like, she’s intertwining these layers of professional distance and fannish intimacy, and the actual reality of meeting someone that you don’t really know very well, and being thrust into this intimate position with them, and winding up being a confidant in ways you didn’t expect. You know? It’s all got a very, I don't know, it just feels like, Brief Encounter meets Before Sunset meets…like, I don't know, some documentary where you meet your heroes type thing.
ELM: Now I think you’re doing RPF about Caity Weaver.
AR: No, but I’m saying, that’s the profile, that’s the piece.
ELM: Inception, Aja.
FK: Yeah, but this also relates back to one of the things that people always say people did when they were kids a lot—well, I shouldn’t say always, but many people are like, “Yeah, I wrote fanfiction with my friends in it. I wrote this story…” Again, not everyone does this, but I think enough people that it’s a common narrative of people talking about their early fanfiction life.
ELM: Look, my friends were a president and CEO of a company and middle aged men, so I clearly couldn’t ever write RPF about them. Should I only write middle-aged billionaire fic? Should I write Elon Musk RPF? That would be brutal.
FK: First of all, that sounds horrifying.
ELM: That’s the act without the affect. Because I have no positive feelings about him.
FK: It also relates back to people in all sorts of writers writing their friends into the story. One of the things I find frustrating sometimes, and I’m interested in hearing your take on, Aja, is the sort of spectrum of different ways that real people turn up in fiction.
AR: Oh yeah. I think there’s this sense that, and this applies to fanfiction generally, like, I’m thinking about Diana Gabaldon, when she made her rant about fanfiction and then it turns out she had lent one of her characters to be crossed over with another writer’s books. And she didn’t see that that was the same thing, that kind of thing. I think a lot of people will be like, “I’m gonna make this person date Benedict Cumberbatch, because I want them to!” And it doesn’t count as RPF in their head.
ELM: I mean, if I were to look at my shelf right now, the fictions side of my shelf, how many of these books—because I sort by fiction and nonfiction, in case you were wondering—how many of them feature—
AR: As you should.
ELM: Thank you, thank you. Flourish sorts by color, because she’s a monster.
FK: I do not! That’s what I do on one bookshelf.
AR: I tried to sort by color once when I was living in Virginia when I had more books and more bookshelves, but I also still wanted to sort by fiction and genre, and it was just a mess. I had purple YA, and slightly mauve nonfiction, it was bad.
ELM: That’s too much. It should be for ease of finding. But you know, I’m just looking over there right now, and there are so many books on the shelf, and it’s mostly literature, literary fiction and some YA, and there’s a massive number of real figures, some of whom were alive when it was written. It’s not just Henry VIII.
FK: I will fist fight anyone who tries to tell me Don DeLillo’s Libra is not real person fiction. And if Don DeLillo gets to write that, then I’m allowed to too, you motherfucker.
ELM: Right, well, far beyond any of this in the early and modern period, people were writing their favorite classical thinkers, right, like, “I’m gonna chat with Socrates!” Like, cool, bro, have a nice time. What is the difference here? Because I think there’s a discomfort from the mainstream with RPF, and I don't think it’s all chalked up to the discomfort around explicit content, or male/male romance in particular. I think that’s a huge part of it, but I don't think it’s just that.
FK: I think that’s a great question. I think that it’s gonna open a whole can of worms, so let’s take a break, and then let’s talk about this after the break.
ELM: OK, perfect.
FK: All right. We’re back, and the topic is: people’s discomfort with RPF. The history of this discomfort, everything else. Holy shit. Aja just picked up a bottle of wine and straight up took a swig.
ELM: After toasting us!
AR: That’s right, I toasted—
FK: After toasting people’s discomfort with RPF. All right. Sock your opinions to us, because that means you’ve got some opinions.
AR: Well, I’ve been doing this awhile. I’ve been reporting on RPF for awhile, and I’ve been writing it awhile, and I’ve been getting flack from fandom for it for awhile, so I like to think that I’m pretty objective about it all things told. Where do we start?
ELM: What about the idea that it’s offensive—and this isn’t just about fic, it’s also about RPF shipping—that it’s offensive to write about celebrities in sexual situations.
AR: This overlaps with a lot of other conversations that people have around fanfiction in general.
FK: Sure, and fandom in general, let’s be clear. I mean, not just real person fiction but shipping real people, getting invested in real people’s relationships in general without fiction.
ELM: Yeah, I know a number of people who are super down for fanfiction, super down for shipping fictional characters, and super down for explicit fic, you know, do whatever you want, but when you mention RPF they get really, really uncomfortable. They’re like, “I just don’t think that’s right, those are real people,” and I’ll be like, “They’re a construction, blah blah blah,” and they’ll be like, “No.” And, undeniably—not my friends, thankfully—but this conversation does sometimes have a homophobic tint. Homophobic in the sense that like, it’s sometimes cast as the ultimate insult to ship two male actors together or put them in a sexual situation, and the fact that that’s so grievously insulting to some people, that has kind of a homophobic vibe to me. That said, RPF shipping isn’t one great stride for gay rights either, just FYI.
AR: Yeah, so honestly, to sort of deep dive a little bit here, my second fandom was the Kevin Spacey fandom back in 1999/2000.
ELM: Oh boy.
FK: That’s not a thing now. Probably was a thing then, too.
AR: The thing is that, back in the day, it wasn’t even a shipper fandom, it was completely gen. There was no fanfiction, there was no shipping of him with anything, it was just a bunch of people wanting to talk about how he was a good actor. It was all mailing lists, and it was just very pure and wholesome. And if there was any type of shipping happening, it was not even talked about it, it was just completely under the radar from what the actual fandom was doing. And we were all extremely, extremely protective of his privacy. I don’t wanna say to a fault, but we were just so hyper aware of how private he was, and so hyper aware of respecting his space, and I look back on that now, and that really, really influenced how I thought about celebrity and RPF.
Because what happened was that ultimately we found out that his personal assistant Dana Brunetti was spying on our mailing list, and that he had been sort of keeping tabs on us to make sure we really didn’t say anything uncouth, to the point where someone made a shipper joke about him and Kevin Spacey together, just a like, literally just a joke about how they were maybe fucking, and it caused this giant meltdown—
FK: Like a, “Hey you guys, oh yeah, my secret boyfriend Kevin Spacey, ha ha.” Like that?
ELM: No, no. The assistant is Dana. Dana is a man.
FK: Oh, he’s dating his assistant.
AR: And actually now, Dana Brunetti is a powerful Hollywood producer. He executive produced Fifty Shades of Grey, he’s doing fine, but at the time he was Kevin Spacey’s personal assistant, and some made a quote-unquote “dictation” joke on my mailing list, and overnight, I woke up to discover Dana had freaked out about it, told Kevin who had freaked out about it, called the Kevin Spacey mailing list president, who had called my mailing list owner who had freaked out about it, and shut down the entire mailing list overnight, and that was how I left the Kevin Spacey fandom.
ELM: Wow! Wow.
AR: It was a big deal, because it was considered to be a sign that Kevin was right to be distrustful of fans, to not share anything about his personal life with the rest of us, and it just left me feeling so weird about celebrities feeling entitled to their privacy at the expense of realism, I guess.
FK: OK but, what a different time. This is blowing my mind.
ELM: This is a bonkers example, because it’s Kevin Spacey, who genuinely did have something to hide.
AR: Exactly! And I look back on that now and that sense of privacy that we were all so eager to cover had such a tint of shame around it, and it ultimately wound up being very dangerous, you know? And I feel like because of that, I’m like, “Why are you so eager to hold onto your quote-unquote ‘privacy’ at all costs to the point that you don’t understand that you have a public persona that people are going to interpret things about no matter what?” That kind of thing.
ELM: Sure, sure.
AR: Because I feel like, that’s probably, ah, it gets into so many things about where the overlap of public persona and private identity is, and what that line is, and at what point it becomes, especially if we’re talking about people who are closeted, or queer actors, or people who are trying to be out, queer actors without actually coming out—there are a whole lot of lines there we can discuss, but I think what RPF is really capable of discussing well, or at least interpreting. But that whole experience left me feeling very wary about public persona, about celebrity persona, if that makes any sense.
ELM: Ah, man. If it was anybody but Kevin Spacey, such a fraught example.
AR: It is a fraught example, I’m sorry. That’s my history!
ELM: I’m very, you know, I subscribe to a strong fourth wall when it comes to RPF. I hate the kind of attitude in fandom among tinhatters of being detectives, and we’re gonna uncover the truth, but then it’s very tricky to think about someone like Kevin Spacey, who was committing assault, and be like, “Well, maybe some behaviors shouldn’t be protected by privacy.” Well, is it the role of fans to play that detective, or should that be the role of law enforcement?
AR: [laughter] Yeah, I don’t want fans to go after celebrities they suspect…
ELM: I also think, to bring it back to RPF, one thing I’m thinking about too is the way you’re describing the way you’re engaging with Angels in America and these great actors, who are playing iconic gay characters, and how your fiction is a way to deconstruct and comment on that. You could easily write an essay about this, and you could do just as much speculation as you’re doing right now—
AR: Well, I also don’t want to, I’m not going to say that I’m also not into the idea of the actors and them falling in love.
ELM: Yeah, I don’t wanna over-intellectualize it or divorce it from—
AR: The affect.
ELM: Yeah, the romance of it, the fun of that, right, but it’s also like, you could do that in nonfiction, you can do that in meta, you can do that in an article in any mainstream publication. And you could be as thirsty as you want in that too, at this point.
AR: I have been, I’m a culture writer. That’s what I do, often.
ELM: Right, so why is RPF still stigmatized if the nonfictional version of this, where you make the same points, whether it’s your desire—you could write about how appealing you find them—or if it’s this more intellectualized commentary about these choices, why are people sending you anonymous messages saying, “That’s gross.”
AR: I think when you’re talking about journalism, you’re talking about something that is, at least to the vast majority of us, something that is perceived as being abstractive and objective. So you can get personal within the genre of journalism as a literary form, but I think it’s seen more about being your personal relationship about a thing you’re still objectively reporting on, whereas you’re talking about fiction, you’re talking about something that’s completely, intensely personal, and it’s personal to most of the people reading it as well as to you writing it. And I think that people approach that differently and have different ideas and expectations about what your thought process is as you’re constructing the work.
I feel like the way that we approach RPF, in general, I think, is that we expect it to be all about emotions that are romantic, that are confined within a very typical expectation of fiction. But I think when you’re dealing with real life, you're dealing with reality, there’s so much more, it’s so much more complex, it’s so much more layered, there are so many meta levels, and there’s so many more feelings you can be working through. Our expectations about what RPF is and how it functions has a lot to do with how we react to it, and I think that’s said because I think RPF is about much more, and often is about much more in terms of what it’s doing textually, and critically.
FK: OK, I think that that is a wonderful place to round out our discussion of RPF. It’s making me think a lot about not only RPF that I read, but also RPF that I write. I think that we had a voicemail that we wanted to listen to, all three of us as a group, and talk about. Is that right Elizabeth?
ELM: That is right, Flourish. This is unusual. We don’t often invite our guests to comment on listener mail, but, we think you’ll have good thoughts on this one.
Listener: Hi Elizabeth and Flourish! I just wanted to let you know how much I love the podcast. It keeps me thinking critically and engaging with fandom, even when I’m busy with other parts of my life. I had a question about fandom and capitalism, inspired by the “How Fanfiction Makes Us Poor” piece that was in “The Rec Center” this past week. It just got me thinking. I agree with it all on a lot of levels, and yet at the same time, I was frustrated by the idea that the only way that something could be important was that it had monetary value.
I relistened to your “Fandom and Capitalism” episode from January when I first started thinking about this, and as Flourish points out, this is the reality of the world that we live in, we don’t have to like it, it’s just the way things are. And I don’t think things are somehow pure for being free, or that money is always corrupt or something, and people have to pay their bills. And if someone wants to monetize the things they make, that’s fair enough. You can still mention the [inaudible] theory of advertising, that it could be a [inaudible] of monetization. But a decade on from the article, and living in the corporate surveillance hellscape that is the internet these days, that idea makes me uneasy. And say what you will about the culture of fandom at large, it can be really toxic, but at the same time it can be a community that a lot of people rely on for support in a lot of different ways. And having to pay can be a barrier of entry for a lot of people.
I mean, I know in my own case when I got into Harry Potter fandom, I was really young, so that affected my ability to pay. Also, my family was protective of having to pay for things because my family wasn’t too well off at the time, but I could read as much fanfiction as I wanted at the library. I guess my question is, do you think that there’s a way that fandom and fanfic could be monetized in a way that would be exploitative or destroy the communal culture that exists within fandom and fanfic? Thank you.
ELM: OK, so, if anyone hasn’t read the meta, “How Fanfiction Makes Us Poor,” I put it in “The Rec Center.” I guess by the time this episode comes out it’ll be two Rec Centers ago. It was originally published in 2007, and I partly included it as an interesting historical artifact, as I do in the older stuff section of “The Rec Center,” to say, “Here’s the way people were thinking about writing about fandom at this time.” And it was, I don’t know, you guys have read it, you’ve read it since I’ve put it up, right, so you can comment on that. Basically making this argument that fanfiction readers and writers are devaluing themselves, removing themselves from the structures by continuing to have it be a demonetized space. So there’s that. And again! I’m not, I’m not saying that, I think it’s interesting as an artifact to see how people were thinking about stuff. Our “Fandom and Capitalism” episode, did you listen to that one?
AR: I listened to part of it, not all of it, but yes.
ELM: Did you get mad and stop listening?
AR: No, I think I just listened to the first half and then got busy or something.
ELM: Wow, all right, I see how it is!
AR: Sorry, I love you guys. But I was having a lot of feelings about it, and I have a lot of feelings about that letter.
ELM: OK, really quick, let’s summarize our “Fandom and Capitalism” argument, which is, we had a letter-writer write in, who articulated it really well for us, talking about how transformative fandom—the kind of fandom that all three of us are in—kind of breaks the cycle of feedback within the capitalistic structures we’re engaging with. We can get really mad about the lack of diversity in Harry Potter, or the continuing bad decisions or whatever, but it doesn’t matter in terms of making any change if we fix all that in our fanfiction, diversify it there, but then continue to monetarily support the actual structures. We’re not sending any actual signals back if we continue to engage with the big franchises and do the corrective work ourselves, for ourselves, in transformative fandom. And the important thing to remember in that argument is just like our listener says here, these are the structures in which we currently live. That sucks but we have to be honest about that.
AR: But I think we subvert that all the time, and I think we may continue to support the existing franchises through monetary means, but we are also building other things. And I think it’s really important to me to say that I think we are seeing more and more fannish modes of economy and exchange proliferating into the mainstream in serious ways that may not necessarily be literal fanfiction, but are definitely borne of them, and of fandom and transformative fanfiction.
FK: You know, I am gonna be the person here who says I think fanfiction is making some of us poor.
ELM: Hey, capitalist Flourish, here she comes!
FK: You know, genuinely, here I come, and here’s the thing: I totally respect and support people who want to take themselves out of capitalism. I think that if you decide you want to be part of a gift economy, that’s wonderful. In that case, maybe form a gift economy around things that are not part of the corporate world. Maybe write something that’s not about Captain America. I love fandom, I love fanfiction, I love the gift economy within it, but we can’t escape the fact that it is feeding back into these corporate aspects, and as long as we’re continuing to solely ghettoize ourselves in a solely fanfiction space—
AR: I don’t think we are solely ghettoizing ourselves at all.
FK: I think people are breaking out of that more and more, but I do think that especially for people who want to keep that fourth wall extremely high, why are you going to go pro, why would you consider to be a TV writer, why would you do any of these things—
AR: That’s borne out of shame as much as it is borne out of indifference to capitalism. Not that they don’t bleed into each other.
FK: Sure, I don't think anyone is thinking, “Oh yeah, I want to,” I think these things are mixed with each other.
AR: But I do think there is a whole lot of shame around the idea if you’re doing it for free and it’s not making money then you’re wasting your time, or you’re just not good enough to be profitable, that kind of thing. And I think that it’s very subversive to be like, “I’m a professional writer, I’m absolutely as good as someone making money from this, but I’m doing this for free because I believe that’s an important statement to make and an important exchange to offer the world.”
ELM: But, embedded within that, and I agree with all of that, is an extraordinary amount of privilege to be able to make that choice.
ELM: There’s a reason why fandom is dominated by white, middle-class women, regardless of sexuality. That doesn’t make it an extraordinarily diverse space. I do get a little frustrated with this, and I’m gonna say this as someone who I think has, of the three of us, my relationship to writing fanfiction is so—I was gonna say, what’s the word I’m looking for. You two post your fanfiction obviously, you two engage with the community conversation about it. I write fanfiction solely for myself. I’ve spent many, many hours in my life writing fanfiction.
FK: To date, I still have never read a single word of your fanfiction.
AR: I haven’t either.
ELM: No one in the world! I don’t know what to tell you. I can say, even though you have to take my word for it, it’s not the worst in the world, because you know I can write a sentence. You’ve read my nonfiction sentences.
FK: Actually, I feel betrayed that I’ve never gotten to read any of it, because I would like to read it.
ELM: OK! Maybe. But the point is, you know, it's interesting for me to watch conversations about monetization, because it’s true for me, when I actively choose to write fanfiction with my spare time, it’s time that I could be using to write words that earn money. And this is not fiction words, these are nonfiction words, but it’s true. I am a professional writer, and I’m choosing to use up my words. I have a limited number of words in my life, I can’t write that much, and that’s an extraordinary signal of my privilege. I have a full time job that pays the bills. It allows me, ideally, free weekends and sometimes nights—having a bit of a work–life balance issue right now—to do this in my spare time.
And it’s great, but it’s sometime hard for me to watch people say “I’m entitled to money for my work, I’m entitled to feedback for my work.” That’s a huge conversation right now in my feed. “I can’t keep writing unless you leave me more comments,” and I’m like, “This is really hard for me because I’m not spurred by that at all,” in a way that I feel like I’m the purest of the three of us in that it’s my love for the thing. But also you two are very invested in the community of it in ways that I probably never have been and probably never will be.
AR: It’s strange to hear you say that because I feel like I have conversations all the time with baby fans who are completely dependent upon comments for them to determine whether they should keep writing, and that pains me so much because I’m like, “You should always be doing this for yourself and nobody else, because you will never be able to get that kind of validation.” And I think, I guess that’s why I’m protective of the idea that fanfiction needs to be done for free, if only so that you can maintain your personal autonomy over your relationship to your work, right? So you’re not dependent upon external factors.
FK: Yeah, I think what I mean when I say that fanfiction is making some of us poor, I think that what I mean is that there’s a lot of people who, fanfiction is making us poor—I’m just using this term because—
ELM: Yeah, can we pause and say, the use of the word “poor” in this is something that’s not acceptable in 2018.
FK: It’s not great in 2018.
ELM: It wasn’t acceptable then either. Let’s do that poor/broke distinction here, on systemic poverty.
FK: Right, so if fanfiction is making you broke, fanfiction is making you not earn money from your writing, I do think there’s something in that because I have conversations with people who do have a fantasy vision of themselves as a writer, making money from their writing, who are involved in the fanfiction world, and find it incredibly hard to get out of that validation space, right? Because we pay each other in validation.
I agree, it is hard, too! I find it incredibly hard to write without people telling me that I’m great, and I don't get that many comments for a fanfiction writer compared to some people I know. I get many more than lots of others. But I do think that there’s something that happens when we opt into this gift economy, and I do think a lot of people could opt to do something else, and there’s certain factors that make it very sticky, you know?
AR: And I also wanna say that this is part of the larger conversation that we’re having about art in general right now about the political attacks on art and the funding of art. This pressure to be, “Oh, you’d be doing it for free, just go do it for free!” I think there's a huge stigma that we place that arts, culture and writing are not things that deserve to be monetized in a way, and I worry sometimes that this defense of fanfiction as a free space plays into that in a weird way.
ELM: Can I, I was gonna write about this and I actually think I still might, but a few months ago I went to this conference called “Bond” in San Francisco, and there were two presenters who were talking about some of these issues. And one was Jesse Thorn, do you know him? He’s the head of the Maximum Fun network? Do you guys listen to any Maximum Fun shows? They produce My Brother, My Brother and Me, which is probably the most famous one.
FK: I know My Brother, My Brother and Me, but I don't listen.
ELM: I love Jesse Thorn. I think he’s extraordinarily generous as a cultural critic. He understands that people love stuff, which a lot of people in cultural criticism do not. And he also—
ELM: You know what I mean. He’s also like a bit of a political, he grew up in this leftist space in San Francisco, and he was talking about, capitalism is immoral, but wanting or needing to make money is not. And he was talking about profiting off of art, because he runs a podcast network where he fosters their podcasting and broadcasting and cultural criticism. That was juxtaposed, his whole presentation was fantastic, and it’s online so we can include a link.
The final speaker of this was called Austin Kleon, who’s the author of this book, Steal Like an Artist. And he was talking about this kind of thing we’re talking about right now, this drive to monetization. He gave this example where he was like, say you’re invited to a kid’s birthday party, and you make them a little sweater, and the kid is like, “Oh cool, thank you.” And then the other parents, assuming what happens when you have children, the other parents go, “That’s amazing, you should sell those on Etsy.”
FK: This happens to me with dog sweaters. The sweaters that I knit for my dog.
ELM: And you’re like, “I just do this for fun! I do it for artistic creation, and why are you trying to make me turn this into a brand, or sell this.” So his whole talk, which I’ll include too, was about that. That’s exactly what I think about fanfiction stuff, too. I really think it should be a choice! But I also, right, I think there’s space within the community for both, and I think there are a lot of people who don't think that.
AR: I think so too. I have friends who are really threatened by the fact that people are making Ko-Fi accounts, and Patreon accounts.
ELM: It’s coff-ee.
AR: It’s coff-ee but then it’s spelled k-o-f-i.
ELM: I always read it as coff-ee, don’t worry.
AR: And Patreon accounts for themselves in fandom, and I don’t feel that way at all. We’ve been having this conversation for years in terms of filing off serial numbers and pulling to publish, should we be doing it? And I feel like there’s just room for everything, and I think we’re seeing more emergence of ways—and I am completely biased here, because I am a living example of making money from fandom in a way that is not making money from fanfiction.
ELM: All three of us are, it’s undeniable.
AR: But I think that’s becoming more common. Even books, like Fangirl and Ship It! All of those things are different ways of taking that forward and profiting from it.
ELM: Well, see, you bring up things like that and I just think of all of the elevated fanboys who are now running multi-billion-dollar franchises.
AR: Right, just go for it.
ELM: I think of all of the anger and fury at the idea that you would ever use your own fannishness to work on fictional property, or to write a book like that.
AR: It’s such a gendered thing.
ELM: It’s so gendered to me. Flourish, you have a knowing smile.
FK: I’m glad that you both agree with me now.
ELM: No, I didn’t disagree with you! I’m realistic about this.
FK: I feel very validated.
AR: I have to say, this is the only conversation that Elizabeth and I have had in years where we haven’t really disagreed about anything.
ELM: You’re wrong, Aja! We disagreed the entire time.
FK: Oh my God, oh my God guys, I think we’re running out of time for you two to disagree, so we’re going to have to end this on half a note of you disagreeing. Can we do that?
ELM: Aja, I’m trying to think of something we can disagree about.
ELM: Let’s bask in the peace.
AR: Yes, let’s have a moment of fandom harmony. We’ve had such a contentious, both of these are such contentious topics, but look where we’ve ended up, it’s all happiness.
ELM: I’m gonna say, and Flourish and I too, we often, sometimes—you’ve said this to me, you are often aggressively agreeing with me.
ELM: This happens to me with my coworkers too, we definitely agree, and now we’re just shouting at each other. I think all three of us do that.
AR: Yes, yes.
ELM: It’s cool, it’s fine. All right.
FK: Well, it’s been a total pleasure having you on, Aja, thank you.
ELM: Thank you for finally coming on. Will you come on again to talk about all of the other contentious issues?
AR: Always, I will talk about all of them with you. See you next week!
FK: Wonderful. You’re not coming on next week, next week is the very special episode of our anniversary.
ELM: Aww! We’ll ask you to participate.
FK: We will ask you to participate, so you are coming on next week.
AR: I will sing an anniversary song or whatever you want.
FK: Okay. We’ll talk to you then.
FK: It was a total pleasure to have Aja on. I’m so glad that we finally had them on.
ELM: To reiterate, I know it took us three years, but it wasn’t on purpose. Write that one down, Aja.
FK: We’ll probably have them on again sometime, because they are widely knowledgeable about a lot of things.
FK: I think we’re also gonna talk about RPF again too though, to be honest.
ELM: Yeah, one thing we didn’t touch on that I’d love to contextualize is, I’d love to talk about RPF shipping dynamics within broader shipping dynamics, it’s something we’ve talked a lot about, especially about the biases within shipping culture. I’d love to talk about sports RPF, because I think that’s a really easy place to see the kinds of bodies that fans tend to privilege. And these are real people’s bodies.
FK: What you mean is, there’s a lot of sports RPF about hockey, and there’s not a lot of sports RPF about sports that are dominated by black people. Just laying that out there, I don’t know what else to say about this.
ELM: Yeah, to be blunt, yeah. Not just hockey, which is a very predominantly white sport, and in sports RPF, you know, I have this sense that hockey is the predominate sports RPF—but I know that there’s a robust sports RPF fandom around baseball. But undeniably, sports that are mostly black players do tend to…no one’s ever rec’ed me a basketball RPF fic, unless it was some sort of basketball AU.
FK: True, true, basketball AU.
ELM: That kind of thing is really thorny, and so I’d love to have someone else on who really specializes in sports to talk about that, because there’s a ton of dynamics about various parts of RPF that we didn’t even come close to touching.
FK: Yeah, there’s lots more to, so we can commit to more in this arena.
ELM: Excellent, OK. And we’ll get Aja to come on and talk about something else. Not Angels in America.
FK: No, not that.
ELM: Put that one down in the record. Aja, put that one down too.
FK: OK, OK. I think we have one more thing before we can go, which is in regard to our last episode.
ELM: Oh yeah, a couple things. I wrote a companion piece. I think they go hand in hand. Our last episode and my article, about the same kind of topic, the perception of fans, or consumers, or con attendees, that big corporate media have. The movie studios, the television networks, the big level vendors, have—people who go to Comic-Con. Medium.com/fansplaining, and while you’re there you can also see some of our older articles, which I think are pretty timeless. Is that the word I’m looking for?
FK: Timeless, let’s roll with it.
ELM: Except for the one about the election, which you shouldn’t read because they’ll make you too depressed.
FK: Right. OK. So you should read all those, but one thing we wanted to note was that we got a lot of really good responses to this episode, and we don’t have time to share it on this podcast. So, we’re going to be putting it on Fansplaining.com, including extra audio.
ELM: Yeah, I know everyone’s clamoring for extra audio.
FK: Hey, I’m excited for extra audio! It’s not only our voices, it’s a new voice! We’re gonna have a ton of that coming up in the next day or two, so keep an eye on fansplaining.com. It just so happens that this week, there wasn’t space to include everything.
ELM: All right, that’s that! Can I do the final business this week?
FK: You can. It’s rare, but you can.
ELM: All right, let me do it! First thing’s first. Patreon.con/fansplaining. We have Patreon. That is the way this podcast financially sustains itself. You can pledge as little as $1 a month. We are working on the summer tiny zine right now for $10 patrons, so if you wanna get in on that, pledge now, please. Also, the Patreon isn’t about just keeping us financially sustainable. We also use some of that money to commission other writers, and other artists to do cover art, or do art for the articles, and we have a bunch of writers that we want to commission to do kind of longform fan culture reporting and criticism, so even $1 a month would really help so we can get more voices out there so we can share them. So, that would be great.
If you don’t have money though, totally fine. One way you can help us is reviewing us on iTunes and giving us a rating. That helps us be exposed to more eyes. Anywhere you listen to podcasts, sharing. People are constantly tagging us on Twitter, which I love, when people are like, name your favorite podcasts and stuff like that. Anywhere where you can share, if you’re a fan of our work, share with other people who love podcasts. Or, for people who don’t love listening, we have transcripts for every episode, and I know people do consume us that way, so just sharing the transcripts really helps us get the word out.
And then, if you wanna contact us—thank you so much, I realize we didn’t actually thank our listener who sent in the voicemail. We were in the moment, we were so excited to talk about fandom and capitalism and monetization of fanworks, so thank you so much for that. If you’ve been listening, and anything sparks a thought or comment or question, you can leave us a voicemail at fansplaining.com, and you’ll find the number. You can find the ask there, because Tumblr. Anon is on, please don’t be mean to us. Or you can leave us messages on either Twitter of Facebook, both of those are @fansplaining. And the final thing is Gmail. Fansplaining at gmail.com, where you can send in your thoughts. Did I hit all the things?
FK: I think you covered it!
ELM: Yeah! That was kind of a desperate cry of joy. Yeah!
FK: That was indeed a desperate cry of joy. I think that was a sign that we need to get off the phone with each other. I will see you later for our third anniversary episode.
ELM: Aww, what am I supposed to get you for a present?
FK: I don’t know, we’re gonna have to look it up.
ELM: I actually do already have a present for you and I’m not lying, I’m looking at it right now.
FK: I thought you were joking! I don't have a present for you and now I’m gonna have to go find a present, Elizabeth! OK great, we’re exchanging anniversary gifts, who knew! Now I know. OK. We’ll talk about this later once I have something for you.
ELM: You have two weeks, get on it.
FK: OK, bye Elizabeth!
ELM: Bye, Flourish!
[Outro music, thank-yous and disclaimers]