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  • Writer's pictureJohn Lombard

Inspirations - Unidentified Monster in the Bagging Area

Writing a story each month, not every story is going to be a resounding success - so it is with this story of a haunted supermarket, which for me didn't deliver on the concept's potential. But, that's deadline life.

The initial idea was for a plucky supermarket worker to have a Lovecraftian encounter with a self-checkout that eats souls, face up to it, and save his community but become one of the walking wounded.

What I didn't count on - I really hate supermarkets. They look awful, they're crowded, they're chaotic, and with self-checkers have become increasingly inhuman places. Recently one of my local supermarkets replaced plastic bags with paper bags, and the paper bags don't even fit in the self-checkers. People are always forgotten in the rush for false savings.

So the story evolved to talk about the dehumanisation in a society built for the convenience of machines, and the Little Shop of Horrors idea that each supermarket is alive and wants to spread.

With hasty rewrites, the characterisation ended up being thin, and the progress of the story over-brisk. You can feel me rushing to get this done & polished by the end of July in the breathless pacing.

I drew on a lot of my library experience for this story, coupled with research into supermarket workers. Sohail's talk about lifers is his worldview, not mine - people have lots of reasons for taking on different jobs, but it's true that a lot of jobs can crush your spirit.

The story is set in England because nobody does bleak but tawdry quite like the English. I threw in slang and cultural references here and there, but hopefully didn't overdo it.

With the two previous stories historical fiction, it was good to switch gears and do a contemporary setting, and I have plans for a story set in a Melbourne coffee shop in a few months. I've already made a strong start on next month's story, and have high hopes for it - we will find out together on 1 September! Only tip I'll give is that I'm researching pulp mangazine heroes for this one.

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