We Can Remember It for You Wholesale

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"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 title is an allusion to the 1962 Broadway musical I Can Get It for You Wholesale.


Plot summary

Douglas Quail, a simple and ordinary man, wishes to visit Mars. Unable to afford it, he visits a company, Rekal, Incorporated, 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 their office; 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.


The plot was loosely adapted into the 1990 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. A later encounter with a "Recall Doctor" (whom Quaid kills after seeing him sweat) who describes procedure in cases where the memory implantation procedure fails, reveals that Quaid may have been lobotomized at the end of the film.

The script maintains deliberate ambiguity as to whether the events are occurring in the physical world or only in Quaid's own fantasy, which was an artistic decision by director Paul Verhoeven. A novelization of the film (ISBN 0-380-70874-4), written by Piers Anthony, was published the year before the film was released.

In June, 2009, it was announced that Columbia Pictures have hired Kurt Wimmer to write a script for a remake of Total Recall.[1]

Publication history

"We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" was first published in the April 1966 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. It has since been republished in the following collections:

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