by BOOKIE BALOGH
Franja Russell. Photo by Bookie Balogh
Franja Russell, the AVL volunteer of the month for December, has always wanted to talk to characters in novels. She wants to ask the villains why they perform the horrendous acts they undertake, and to query the heroes and heroines about when they decided to take on the courageous acts that would earn them the title of hero. And in SL, as keeper of the Science Fiction Portal, she is able to come close to her childhood dream by inviting authors of works of speculative fiction to come to SL and talk about their books and their characters.
In 2005, Franja purchased a computer and Internet connectivity. A friend suggested that she take a look at SL; she had had no experience with virtual worlds prior to that time. Finding that the world intrigued her, she took many classes, learning how to make her way around in the virtual environment, and in particular, to build. She has built, indeed, both for herself and for others.
When the Sci-Fi & Fantasy Portal was new, Franja volunteered there. She made furniture, stages and seating, organized programs and events. When the original Leader had to withdraw from SL, Franja accepted the role of Portal Leader. She works energetically on behalf of the portal and of the information archipelago. For the Science Fiction Portal, she initiated the very popular events program, bringing authors to SL to discuss their works, holding film discussions, and ensuring that the Portal’s space and collections are exciting and informative places to visit.
Elsewhere in SL, Franja became involved with stroke survivors and their caretakers, in large part because of a series of strokes that her mother had suffered. She loves talking with people from other countries and from other areas of the United States; she would simply like more time to do everything she wants to do!
She is an able designer and gardener. This interviewer had the good fortune to talk with her at her house in SL; it’s a beautiful house, furnished with lovely items, and surrounded by gardens that she clearly tends as well as she tends her RL gardens. In RL, she collects wooden flute music, primarily Native American and Asian, and she has imported some of this music to SL, where it surrounds her in the house that she created.
For running the Science Fiction portal with energy and grace, always seeking to try new things, and tirelessly managing the portal and creating programming for Science Fiction and Fantasy at AVL., she is the Volunteer of the Month for December 2008, an award that is richly deserved.