Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton has created some intense fandom around the American Revolution that has expanded into fanfic. Last year’s Yuletide fic exchange, designed for underrepresented fandoms with fewer than 100 works on the Archive of our Own (AO3), saw the debut of 57 new Hamilton fics.
Desire to read stories about the heroes of the American Revolution existed long before Miranda picked up the Alexander Hamilton biography that inspired him. In 1861, The Amorous Intrigues and Adventures of Aaron Burr was published. Anonymously published, this book mixes the story of Aaron Burr’s life with, well, porn. It’s essentially RPF (real person fiction) from over 100 years ago.
Real person fiction is exactly what it sounds like: fiction written about real people, usually celebrities. There’s tons of it out there, from fic about One Direction to the cast of the Lord of the Rings movies to new Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. Like any fanfic, RPF can be PG-13 or incredibly racy, well written or full of grammatical errors.
Many stories have original characters that can act as a fictional stand-in for the author—a “self-insert” in fic terminology. It’s not as common as you may think. Of the 103,596 fics in the RPF section on A03, only 359 are tagged as containing an original character.
It can be weird writing and reading stories about real people.
“Moving into real people fandoms (Hockey RPF and One Direction) from literature and TV fandoms (Harry Potter, Lost, Merlin BBC) was an uncomfortable experience for me,” writes Alex on tumblr. “A lot of my non-RPF fandom friends pestered me about how weird it seemed that I was shipping and writing and reading about actual human beings. Well, I assured them, they’re just characters to me so it feels just like any other fandom.”
It’s true that fans don’t really know celebrities; what they share with the world is carefully chosen and curated. At the same time, people have been fantasizing about celebrities for ages—why is it so different to write those fantasies down and share them?
If you do find yourself listening to the Hamilton soundtrack non-stop, you’re in luck. AO3 now has over 1200 fics in the Hamilton fandom and lots of RPF. “Alexander Hamilton had a torrid affair and he wrote it down right there.” And so did many others!