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We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick

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“We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” is a 1966 science fiction novelette by Philip K. Dick. It is about a man who desperately wants to go to Mars but can’t afford it, so he gets vacation memories implanted instead.

Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:

Buildings on the Chicago River (by Massimo Catarinella, cc 3.0)Douglas Quail is driving his wife crazy with his constant wishing to go to Mars. She is good at pointing out why he’ll never go though, such as the enormous amount of money it would cost to actually go there, and the fact that he isn’t important enough to be considered for a trip anyway. See – it’s good to have a practical spouse in life! Douglas decides that if he can’t go there he can do the next best thing – get memories of a trip implanted in his brain. Enter “Rekal, Inc.” a company that specializes in memory implants, and which prepares a fake Mars trip (complete with an identity as an Interplan agent) for Mr. Quail. Yeah, there is a little problem though, for when they try to implant the memories they discover that he really has been to Mars, and really was an Interplan agent! Whoops! That is not the kind of information anyone wants to stumble upon, and now some very scary people are looking for Mr. Quail.

I will go, he said to himself. Before I die I’ll see Mars.

It was, of course, impossible, and he knew this even as he dreamed. But the daylight, the mundane noise of his wife now brushing her hair before the bedroom mirror – everything conspired to remind him of what he was. A miserable little salaried employee, he said to himself with bitterness.

My Two Cents:

• The good:

  • The idea of false vacation memories being implanted is pretty cool! As I read “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” I wondered which fake vacations I would get implanted – a month long trip to Italy perhaps?
  • This is a fun story to read, what with all the action, plot twists and surprise ending!

• The bad:

  • You’ve got to remember that “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” was written in 1966, so there are some far-fetched ideas: a bare breasted receptionist for one, and the ending was a bit of a stretch also. Oh well, it was still a super fun read!

Fact Sheet:
• Page Count: 17
• Word Count: 8,159
“We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” garnered the following awards:

  • It was ranked 32nd in the 1999 Locus All-Time Poll.

Where you can find “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”:

  • This novelette first appeared in the April 1966 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
  • “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” is included in the excellent short story collection The Philip K. Dick Reader .

Some Interesting Links:

  • You can read a very nice biography about Philip K. Dick on his official website.
  • “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” was the basis for the 1990 movie “Total Recall” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone. Have you seen it? Here is the trailer:

Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like The Hunted Heroes, about a team of uranium miners who are captured by a madman on Mars, by Robert Silverberg.