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We Can Remember It for You Wholesale

We Can Remember It for You Wholesale is a novelette by Philip K. Dick first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in April 1966. It features a classic meshing of reality, false memory and real memory. The story is included in the collection of the same name.

Plot summary

Douglas Quail, a simple and ordinary man, wishes to visit Mars. Unable to afford it, he visits a company, Rekal, that offers implanted memories ("extra-factual memory"). The attempt to implant some racy Mars memories of Quail as a secret agent, reveals that Quail actually is an undercover government assassin with a mind full of dangerous secrets. The Rekal staff quickly get Quail out of there; he heads home and finds certain physical evidence to support his new old memories. The government initially seeks his death but instead Quail manages to make a deal. He returns to Rekal to have his Mars memories once more suppressed, and is offered by way of compensation a set of heroic wish-fulfillment false memories. The Rekal staff begin the memory-implanting procedure — and uncover a different and older set of suppressed memories revealing that the unbelievable memories they are about to insert are already there and are true.

Adaptations

The plot was the inspiration for the 1990 science fiction film Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the film, the hero, renamed Quaid, actually travels to Mars, but the initial memory implant scene foreshadows much of what he achieves — kills the bad guys, gets the girl, saves the planet. The script maintains deliberate ambiguity as to whether the events are occurring in the physical world or only in Quaid's own fantasy, an intentional decision by director Paul Verhoeven. The film was then novelized (ISBN 0-380-70874-4) by Piers Anthony.

References

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