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We Can Remember It For You Wholesale

From Academic Kids

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale is a short story by Philip K. Dick first published in Fantasy and Science Fiction in April 1966. It features a classic Dick meshing of reality, false memory and real memory.

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 Rekall 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 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. Nor — as director Paul Verhoeven has commented — is it entirely clear whether the trip to Mars "really" happens. Beginning with the scene in which Quaid/Schwarzenegger visits Rekall, the script maintains deliberate ambiguity as to whether the events are occurring in the physical world or only in Quaid's own fantasy.

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