We Can Remember It for You Wholesale
"We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" is a short story by American writer Philip K. Dick, first published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in April 1966. It features a melding of reality, false memory, and real memory. The story has been the subject of two film adaptations, both called "Total Recall": the first made in 1990 with Arnold Schwarzenegger as the story's protagonist, and a 2012 version with Colin Farrell as the protagonist.
Douglas Quayle works a menial office job in the "not too distant future". His biggest dream has always been to visit Mars, but is constantly dissuaded by his wife who is annoyed by this fantasy. Quayle eventually discovers Recall, a company specializing in memory implants and decides to get some to satisfy him. Quayle also fantasized about being a government agent and pays extra to have this added too. To the shock of the scientists, Quayle's memories reveal that he really is a secret agent who has been to Mars. Suddenly undergoing a personality change, Quayle berates the scientists for blowing his cover.
The lead scientist, McClane, refunds half of Quayle's money and sends him home, but Quayle decides that his new memories are fake and that the staff just simply botched their job and manages to get a full refund. He returns home still believing the memories are fake, but discovers a box of fauna smuggled from Mars in his desk. He confronts his wife about whether or not he has actually been to Mars, but she angrily leaves him. Two armed men suddenly enter and reveal that Quayle has a chip in his head that allows them to read his thoughts. They then have a conversation that is both verbal and mental which leads to Quayle suddenly remembering why he had his memories erased: Quayle wasn't just a secret agent, he was an assassin who fought through several bodyguards on Mars and killed a political opponent for Earth's government.
With his memories returned, the armed men decide to kill him, but Quayle, with his abilities awakened as well, fights them, but doesn't kill them and flees. Wondering what to do, Quayle's former commanders suddenly speak to him through the chip. He suggests going through another mindwipe, but his commanders state that he will just get bored with his life and go to Recall again or try to go to Mars. Quayle comes up with another idea, to remove his current memory of being an assassin and implant a new and amazing memory of something exciting. His commanders agree, feeling that it is their obligation to help their former assassin.
Quayle lets himself be captured and is placed with a psychiatrist to figure out what his own personal desires are. When he was young, Quayle always envisioned that as a child he came across minuscule aliens that were going to launch a full frontal invasion with their superior technology. However, Quayle was so kind and accepting to the aliens that they decided to hold off on their invasion as long as he was alive. While finding the fantasy narcissistic, his commanders agree to plant the memories at Recall. To everyone's shock, those memories turn out to be real as well as the aliens had given Quayle the combat technology that had made him an expert assassin and it was erased along with his memories of Mars. The story ends with the commanders unsure of what to do with Quayle as he can't be killed as Earth will be doomed, but he will remember everything now.
The plot was loosely adapted into the 1990 film Total Recall, directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the film, the hero, renamed Quaid, travels to Mars, but the initial memory implant scene foreshadows much of what he achieves while there, thus causing the viewer to doubt whether or not everything that happened after the Recall scene happens or is all in Quaid's purchased memory.
Another adaptation, also titled Total Recall, was directed by Len Wiseman and released on August 3, 2012. The film features Colin Farrell as the hero, also named Quaid, and largely follows the lines of the first film. It includes numerous references and nods to the 1990 film, but removes the Mars element. Instead, the action in this film takes place on Earth, between the UFB (located in Great Britain) and the Colony (located in Australia). Much of the remaining 1990 plot is retained in a similar format.
"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:
- The Preserving Machine (1969)
- Alpha 5 (Robert Silverberg anthology) (1974)
- The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick: Volume V (1987)
- The Little Black Box (1990)
- We Can Remember It for You Wholesale (1990)
- The Philip K. Dick Reader (1997)
- Minority Report (2002)
- Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick (2002)
- The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction (2010)
- The Collected Short Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol 2: We Can Remember It for You Wholesale. ISBN 0-8065-1209-1.