Many of us remember the ultra-plainly-labeled, über-cheap generic foods sold in bulk at grocery stores a few decades back. Stuff like bulk beer, which came in plain white cans with just the word "BEER" in stark black letters, plus minimal nutrition information and a bar code.

Fewer people remember that, for a very brief period of time in the white-label heyday of the early 1980s, someone attempted to market generic genre books.

Yes, completely generic paperback books. They had a plain white cover with just the title in black block lettering: ROMANCE or SCIENCE FICTION or HORROR or WESTERN.

They released one book in each genre; an older friend of mine collected the whole set. The books had no back-panel blurb, no author information, no publisher information, not even a copyright page.

My friend said the novels were uniformly awful, but entertainingly so. Apparently the writer or writers went out of their way to incorporate every possible genre cliché into the paper-thin storylines.

I'm guessing the white-label SCIENCE FICTION novel had a bad case of white room syndrome.

The books, of course, failed miserably except as a collector's oddity for bibliophiles. It's hard to get authors to do good work when they're not even given a pseudonym, and it's even harder to get readers to pick up a book without the benefit of snazzy cover art, a catchy title, or author name recognition. And, of course, without publisher information attached to the product, there's not much possible motive or method to marketing.

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