I have read some though, and not always in a self-hypocritical way. I judged that category along with others in the last judged round of the S&B Awards (I'm hoping not to judge that one next time, I don't think I'm the most objective judge for it). Sometimes though, it has been hypocritical of me. I read and loved the first 'season' of Things I Learned in My Freshman Year (a J2 AU college fic). The second 'season' of it lost me after working at the con last year. Spending so much time with one of the major players in that fic (Steve Carlson) made my innate abhorrence for the genre come to the fore and I just couldn't read on. I even used to beta read RPS fic for wenchpixie, decent fics all, although to be honest all I was really required to do there was point out the aberrant capitalisations and explain the realities involved with owning dogs.
All that said; I'm not a fan of RPS. There's still, to me, something inherently wrong with it. I'm not saying you shouldn't enjoy it or write it, heaven forefend: this is just my opinion.
So why am I saying this again? Well, the thing is, running awards sites is something I love doing and I take the responsibility of making awards seriously. This is why I was so disappointed when my flash drive was corrupted after I spent a week making personalised banners for the winners of the first round of the S&B Awards. Personalising the banners means I have to have at the very least an idea of the story.
Last night I was making the banners for the Readers' Choice round of the S&B Awards and part of me was dreading making the RPS banners - and then I opened up the winning fic. I started to skim read, thinking that I could garner an idea of timing and use appropriate aged J2 pics. I stopped skim reading pretty damn quickly, went back to the beginning and read the whole thing from start to finish. It's not a short fic. Half past one this morning I finished it.
It's wonderfully written (caveat - there are a few grammar errors which jumped out at me in a slightly annoying way and would have gotten it an 8/10 on my 'beta' judging criteria). The characters are so beautifully drawn and the situations they find themselves in are heartbreaking, amusing, rewarding, wonderful.
But that's the thing - these characters are just that. They are characters. The story is an AU, these are not Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki and sundry others as we know them. These are characters who happen to share the names of the actors whom the author sees in the roles.
And that makes me think - if this story had been written as original fiction it would probably not have been a bestseller, but I'm damn sure it would have found a publisher.
Writing fanfiction gives the author the chance to take shortcuts in character development. You don't need to fully explore a character's background if you're aware the reader already knows it. I'm going on the assumption that RPS writers make use of the same shortcut - the reader knows who Jensen and Jared are. When the names are used in writing it calls up not just a photographic image of them, but also personal quirks, laughs, sense of humour, reactions - all of the things that are bundled together into their public personas.
The fic that kept me reading for three hours last night was not based on the public personas. The author did not seem to rely on the audience's awareness of who these people are to shortcut the character development. They are fully developed within the fic as uniquely individual people within this particular story.
In fact, I would be extremely interested to see if someone who is not in the Supernatural fandom, who is not as aware of these actors as I am, (and who doesn't mind reading male/male slash,) would be able to read this as a story and come away feeling they had understood these characters. (Volunteers anyone?)
So I would like to know, why do RPS AU writers write RPS? Why not write that story as original fiction? If the image of the characters the author carries in their mind matches an actor then… really? That's not so different from the way I and others I've spoken to write their own original characters. (My recurring original character Brogan looks exactly like Dawn Steele for example.)
I'm not judging - I have my opinions that I hope are clear without offending - I genuinely would like to explore the reasons behind RPS AUs.
(Unfortunately I cannot tell you the name of the fic in question until the winners are announced.)