Bic is known as a maker of disposable lighters, pens, and razors. But back in 1989, the company decided it could extend its brand to French perfume. So, it debuted Parfum Bic. Syndicated columnist Rick Ratliff (Detroit Free Press - Mar 27, 1989) explained the reasoning behind the product:
Made entirely in France and packaged in little portable spritzers that look more than a bit like Bic lighters, Parfum Bic will retail for just $5 a quarter-ounce, one-tenth the price of a typical French perfume. Parfum Bic already is selling briskly in Europe, the company reports. Already, cocooned in decidedly downscale blister packs, the product is hitting the speed racks of American supermarkets, drug and variety stores. With this product, Bic hopes to create a whole new low-price perfume category by advancing the notion of perfume as a product that can be bought and used spontaneously.
If it's gamble had succeeded, the Bic executives would have looked like marketing geniuses. But of course, Parfum Bic didn't succeed. Within several years, it had disappeared from shelves.
In 1981, Jove Publishing debuted a “No Frills” series of books. This consisted of four books, each of which was supposed to represent a generic version of a genre (science fiction, western, mystery, and romance). Each book featured a generic cover, styled after the generic packaging for foods.
And to complete their genericness, the names of the authors weren't revealed. But the Internet, of course, has subsequently tracked down who they were. As posted on Bill Crider's blog:
Terry Bisson, who was one of the instigators of this project, reports:
Mystery was written by Clark Dimond, a men's mag editor/writer who also wrote for comics.
The Romance was written by Judy Coyne (former Glamour mag editor) nee Wederholt
The SF was written by John Silbersack, SF editor and now an agent.
The Western was by Vic Milan (SF author)
We were working on a No-Frills Besteller (by me) and A No-Frills movie (by film critic David Ansen) when the series was dropped.
My partner selling the series was Lou Rosetto who went on to found WIRED magazine.
So what were the plots of these 'generic' novels? Here are some summaries I was able to find online:
Science Fiction (via Goodreads)
"A space cadet is called to the commander's office at the moon academy. His father is the lone known survivor of the Pluto colony, and asks for his son to join him in the search for what happened. They assemble a crew and blast off to Pluto, where they stumble upon few clues but several surprises."
Western (via Goodreads)
"It begins when Kid Smith arrives in town and almost immediately finds himself in a bar room brawl. He’s soon menaced by the town’s two factions. Those wearing black hats are led by a corrupt judge and those wearing white hats are led ….by a corrupt mayor. Both want their hands on the widow West’s land but Smith has taken a shine to her and vows to protect her and her property from the two no-good skunks and their henchmen."
Romance (via NY Times)
'''Romance' is complete with everything the cover claims - a kiss, a promise, a misunderstanding, another kiss, a happy ending -plus an alarming trial marriage condoned, nay, arranged by the Mother Superior of a Virginia hunt-country convent."
Mystery (via Bill Crider)
"The story itself is pure pulp, with corpses piling up at an amazing rate. The unnamed first-person private-eye narrator is given a mysterious cassette tape. Someone's killing to get it because although to the p. i. it sounds like a song, it has the power to cloud most men's minds. Most women's, too. Whoever has the tape can control the world."
As far as I can tell, Thomas Clark Twyman never did live up to his changed name. Actually, it’s not even an original gag. I found several musicians (such as the one below, from Australia) calling themselves Rich N. Famous.
Concerned by an increasing number of attacks on cab drivers, Parisian taxi drivers in 1987 began outfitting their cars with a device called "le siege qui brule" ('the seat that burns'), which could electrify unruly passengers with 52,000 volts.
“With the push of a discreetly placed pedal, the taxi driver can send the electricity coursing for one second through the back seat, stunning the passenger with a jolt to the back of the neck.”
As far as I can tell, the devices were outlawed a few months after their introduction.
Books Selected and endorsed for Pure Weirdness by Your WU Team
Who We Are
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
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