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We Can Remember It For You Wholesale is a short story written by legendary science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. It is the story of a man whose memories and mind are repeatedly garbled by a combination of governments and private corporations.

The protagonist of the story is Douglas Quail, who seems at first glance to be just an ordinary salaried employee living out his ordinary life, escaping from the plainness of it all by fantasizing about visiting Mars. The fantasies grow stronger and stronger until one day he visits a company called the Rekal Corporation, where they offer to implant false memories into minds in order to add the belief to Douglas's mind that he had in fact taken a trip to Mars.

Unfortunately, just before the memory replacement is about to begin, Douglas's subdued mind begins to recall that he actually had been sent to Mars by an international police force called Interplan to assassinate the leader of an underground rebellion movement on Mars. Naturally, Rekal is freaked out by this revelation, so they merely wake Douglas up and send him on his way without implanting the memory. Unfortunately, this experience causes the original memory to slowly unseed itself and the tale turns into a story of how a man deals with two conflicting sets of memories.

This story deals with a number of interesting issues, mostly dealing with how an individual would respond to multiple conflicting memories. Would the person descend into confusion, or would the person try to integrate the memories into some sort of mutant worldview? A lot of ethical and psychological issues result from the ability to put into someone's mind the ability to remember things that did not happen, and these issues are the ones that the story revolves around.

How would the government use such memory replacement abilities? This story seems to indicate that the government would use the ability to clear the memory of the special operatives that they employ once they've outlived their usefulness. But what happens to these people after they are discarded, especially if their memory comes back?

Even more interesting is how companies would deal with this responsibility. Companies who have the ability to do such things; what sort of ethical responsibilities do they have? The ability to alter memories adds the opportunity for many sorts of graft and unethical use of human minds; would corporations exploit this, and how?

This story even touches on how exactly the immediate family of someone with multiple memories deals with the situation. This is similar to the film Memento in terms of how someone can deal with memories that aren't necessarily true, and those that conflict.

Phillip K. Dick is a legendary science fiction writer; among his most well-known works are The Man in the High Castle, considered to be the best alternate history novel ever written, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the novel upon which the film Blade Runner was based.

This story provided the (very) loose basis for the action/science fiction film Total Recall. The reinvention of this psychological tale into an action story takes this tale from the very good to the mediocre, but even a great number of details were altered as well. For instance, in the film, the main character was named Douglas Quaid. It also eliminates many of the more interesting questions the story raises, simply by replacing them with explosions.

The story "We Can Remember it for You Wholesale" first appeared in the April, 1966 issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Reading it in its original form perhaps gives a different perspective on this story. In 1966, Phillip K Dick was a well known science fiction writer, although he was not at the top of the canon, as he would probably be considered now. The mind bending VALIS and Scanner Darkly were still a decade in the future. Although he is on the cover for the story, the cover painting goes to Jack Vance, illustrating one of his Cugel the Clever stories. The story immediately following "We Can Remember it for You Wholesale" is about a cat and flea, who both love opera, and the flea becomes a famous opera singer. Really.

The story is a little over eighteen pages long, which means that the many twists and turns of the story are compressed into a very short amount. The protagonist, Douglas Quail, undergoes his dream vacation in the first few pages, realizes that it is fake a few pages after that, is intercepted by the secret agents who realize that his fake vacation is real and negotiates with them in a page or two, and then the rest of the plot turns (and there is another big one) come in, in the last few pages. If all of this sounds confusing, it is, and because of the short length, the reader has barely been able to process one weird plot twist before a second one comes about. And in such a short space, there is not really much space for developing characterization. The only real character is Quail himself, and not much time is spent describing his life or establishing his character: he is thrust into a series of plot twists very quickly.

All of this makes me think that the original story, although having a great place in the history of science fiction, is more of a sketch of an idea than a fully realized story. In A Scanner Darkly, the growing paranoia and sense of unreality of the protagonist as he descends into madness is demonstrated by scenes describing his inner monologue in detail, and by demonstrating his life realistically and discursively. Here, we are given no such introspection as layers of reality and unreality are peeled back in rapid succession. This is, to some extent, the nature of a short story, and it is hardly an insult to Phillip K Dick that he couldn't fit an entire psychological epic in eighteen pages. The reader is mostly left wondering what the story would be like as a full length novel, which was eventually done, although I can't imagine that the novelization of Total Recall has quite Phillip K Dick's skill at psychological trickery, since it was written by Piers Anthony.

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