My Favorite Things with Venessa Giunta

They might not be raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but that doesn’t mean that we love them any less. Welcome back to My Favorite Things, the weekly column where we grab someone in speculative circles to gab about the greatest in geek. This week we sit down with editor, writer, and Speculative Chic contributor Venessa Giunta. What does she love when she’s not writing and editing like a fiend? Spoiler alert: a spoon full of sugar, thirteen seasons and counting, an actual remake, the live-action evolution of video games, and making a game out of productivity. Curious? Read on for more!


Movie

You know Mary Poppins falls under SpecFic, right? This is absolutely my favorite Disney movie and one of my favorite movies of all time. I feel like I don’t even have to say anything about it because… it’s Mary Poppins. Right? Liberated carousel horses, living chalk paintings, laughing on ceilings.

When I was young, I wanted to write the sequel to Mary Poppins, but I never did. Since Hollywood seems to not have the stomach for new stories and are remaking pretty much very thing ever done in the 60s-80s, I guess there wouldn’t be a call for it anyway.

Speaking of Hollywood, I’m not entirely sure I am going to see the remake of Mary Poppins. I was pretty horrified when they announced it. I will see how I feel about it when the time comes.

Television

Supernatural. Ah, Sam and Dean Winchester! Who doesn’t love these boys? I still think of them as the 20-somethings from the beginning of the show. I am not super-hardcore about Supernatural. I don’t have any tattoos of symbols from the show; I haven’t gone to any of the Supernatural conventions (though let’s not rule that out). But I do watch the show pretty religiously. It’s one of the shows I don’t ever let myself get more than an episode or two behind on.

The thing that I find really brilliant about Supernatural is that they’ve managed to keep it pretty fresh. The ongoing storylines and overall season arcs still keep my interest. Usually, when a show like this hits about the 5 or 6 year mark, the writing starts going downhill; the stories get boring or repetitive; or they just jump the shark completely. Even Buffy couldn’t get past seven seasons. But Sam and Dean are going on 13 years. And they’re still rated a 9.1/10 on TV.com and have a 92% Rotten Tomatoes score. That’s pretty impressive.

Now, I’m not unrealistic. I know the show isn’t going to last forever. But unless there’s a sudden evacuation of the main characters (or the great writers), I can see it going on a while longer. I just hope that when it does end, it is with deliberation, not just a sudden ax from the ignorant television studio a la Sense8!

Non-Spec Fic Item

Lethal Weapon. I think I’ve been pretty clear on how I feel about remakes. I watched the first episode of this show with a lot of trepidation. The Lethal Weapon movie franchise was like a television staple in my house when I was a teen. My mom and I loved the movies — one of the few instances where our tastes coincided. We’d have the movies (especially the first one) playing in the background all the time. So these characters were pretty near and dear to my heart.

When I saw how Clayne Crawford played Riggs (Mel Gibson’s movie character), I was hooked. He plays Riggs so perfectly, I don’t even mind that Damon Wayans doesn’t really do Murtaugh right.

Over the course of the 1.5 seasons, I’ve grown to really like the supporting characters (Scorsese cracks me up), but the thing that keeps me watching is that the show is all about Riggs’ story. It’s the story of everyone who’s every lost something important and the struggle to become better. I feel like his character is someone we can all relate to on some level. I really hope this series continues. I think it’s one of the first times a remake does the original justice and has the potential to even surpass its predecessor.

Video Games

Okay, if you’re a child of the ’80s and you haven’t played Evoland, well, I just don’t even want to know you, Jed.

This is how your adventure begins. (Courtesy of Steam)

Evoland is this cool concept game that takes you through the evolution of video games. You begin is a black and white 8-bit character and as you explore and discover treasure chests, you get upgrades, like color, 16-bit graphics, a soundtrack. Later, you discover your inventory, 3D graphics, a life meter (instead of getting killed with one hit), camera panning, etc.

The game is played like a RPG in the tradition of Dragon Quest and early Final Fantasy games, where you explore the area around you, get attacked, kill monsters, find towns, and go on quests. And all along, you upgrade the look of the game and the general gameplay in the same way video games progressed over the years. There is an Evoland II now, though I haven’t played that yet.

This one of the later screenshots. (Courtesy of Steam)

I found the entire concept of video game history and advances being part of the gameplay to be brilliant and a really cool homage to all the changes that have gone in to getting to where we are now.

If you haven’t tried it, you should! You can find it on Steam.

Productivity App

Habitica. I’ve written about this before, but it’s still one of my favorite things, so here it is again :p

I love productivity apps. It may be fair to say that I spend a lot of time messing around with new ones and figuring out if they’ll fit into my workflow. (Some people might argue that this is diametrically opposed to productivity, but it makes me happy, so nyah.) I use a number of different ones and have dropped some and added others, but the one I continue to use is Habitica.

Habitica is a gamified habit tracker and to do list. You have a character to start. You must make level 10 before you can choose a class. Your character always has 50 hit points, but can get increased mana (for magic and skills) as the character’s level increases.

Tasks screen. (Courtesy of Habitica.com)

You have three lists in your overall Tasks area: Habits, Dailies, and To Dos. I’m not going to get into the details, because you can check that out yourself, but you can gain or lose experience, gold, and mana by doing or not doing your tasks. As you gain experience, your character levels up and you get goodies, like eggs to hatch into pets and food to feed your pets to eventually grow them into mounts. You can buy equipment with your gold, cast spells and use skills on your tasks to different effects. There are even quest scrolls which will give you a task of gathering items or even fighting a monster!

Habitica really makes getting your stuff done much more like a game than like work. Mary Poppins would have been proud.

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are courtesy of IMDb.


Venessa Giunta is an author of weird stuff and a freelance fiction editor. She holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where she learned more about writing and the business of writing than can comfortably fit in her head (corks in the ears work really well for this). What she, and most editors, looks for in a manuscript can be found in her essay “Demystifying What Editors Want” in Many Genres, One Craft, which she is vaguely amused to say is a whole lot of her MFA in a $30 book.

Venessa enjoys giving back to the writing community. She served as Guest Liaison for Seton Hill Alumni Association’s In Your Write Mind Workshop (Pittsburgh, PA) for six years and has been Assistant Director of the Writers’ Track at Dragon Con (Atlanta, GA) since 2011. Follow her on Twitter @troilee or, especially if you’re a writer looking for advice, visit her website.

 

6 Comments

  • Kelly McCarty January 29, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    I had to laugh at the fact that you’re not a hardcore fan of Supernatural if you don’t have any Supernatural tattoos. Evoland looks interesting and I don’t even play video games.

    Reply
    • Venessa Giunta January 29, 2018 at 3:40 pm

      I’m basing my non-hardcoreness on my sister’s hardcoreness 😉

      I’m not a huge video game person, but man, I love Evoland just for the nostalgia factor 😉

      Reply
  • Nicole Taft January 29, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    I’m staring at Habitica and starting to think maybe I should use it….

    Reply
  • Shara White January 30, 2018 at 7:48 am

    I need to show my husband Evoland. I bet he’d get a huge kick out of it!

    Reply
  • Heidi Ruby Miller February 11, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    Awesome look back at some cool games, Venessa! Thanks for sharing with us.

    Reply

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