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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr


"We Can Remember It for You Wholesale"
Written by Phillip K. Dick
Originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 1966

A man who dreams of exploring Mars discovers more than he bargained for when he signs up for an ersatz trip to the red planet.


Read the complete short story at Google Books


Didja Know?


The title is a reference to the 1962 Broadway musical and 1937 novel, I Can Get It for You Wholesale.


This story was the basis of the screenplay of the 1990 film Total Recall (hereafter referred to as "the film").


Didja Notice?


In the short story, the protagonist is named Douglas Quail rather than Quaid as in the film. It may be because the U.S. Vice-President at the time was Dan Quayle and the writers and producers may have felt Doug Quail was too similar a name.


Quail is a clerk, not a construction worker as in the film. Most likely the producers did not think an audience would buy Arnold Schwarzenegger as a mousy clerk.


Quail's wife is named Kirsten, not Lori as in the film. And she seems to be his real wife, not just playing a part to help cover up his memory-wiped past.


At breakfast, Quail inhales a Bean Nash mixture of Dean Swift snuff. Dean Swift is a real world producer of tobacco snuff. I am unaware of a Bean Nash mixture.


When his wife accuses him of having dreamed of a woman, Quail says, "No. A god. The god of war." This is a roundabout way of saying he was dreaming of Mars; Mars was the Roman god of war for whom the planet was named.


Kirsten suggests she and Doug take a vacation to an aquatic resort at the bottom of the ocean. In the film, this was used as one of the dream vacations in the Rekall TV ad seen by Quaid.


In this story, the memory implantation company is called Rekal instead of Rekall as in the film.


In this story, Quail lives in Chicago. The city is described as existing in Cook County, which is true. The film on the other hand, never reveals what city Quaid lives in.


In this story, the female secretary at Rekal is bare-bosomed, apparently a socially acceptable practice in the future! In the film, she is fully-clothed, though in the novelization she is described as wearing a variable transparency blouse, which allows it to be transparent under certain lighting conditions from certain angles. Here in the short story, however, her breasts are not their natural color! They are first blue and then, on Quail's third visit to the Rekal offices, orange. This color-change was probably the inspiration for her fingernail-color-changing stylus in the film.


The Rekal owner is named McClane as he is in the film. He also wears a gray, Martian frog-pelt suit as he does in the novelization, though here the frogs are described as actually native to Mars, not just Earth species raised on Mars. Later in the story, Mars is also described as having gray-brown cacti and maw-worms. Having written the story before we knew the lifelessness of the planet, Dick felt comfortable elaborating on the possible life to be found there.


Quail muses that the Rekal package costs almost as much as actually going to Mars. So why doesn't he?


McClane tells Quail that he won't remember having been to Rekal after the Mars memory implantation.


Quail purchases the Mars Rekal package with the "secret agent of Interplan" option. The name Interplan is probably a play on the modern name of the International Criminal Police Organization, Interpol. In this case, Interplan probably stands for "interplanetary". In the film and novelization, the Agency is never named.


Part of the kit of items Quail will receive from Rekal as "proof" of his visit to Mars will be "several quotations from John Donne's sermons". John Donne was a 17th Century English poet, satirist, and priest who wrote a number of famous sermons. The sermons, of course, have nothing to do with Mars, but serve as souvenirs implying a learning experience of sorts that took place during the vacation.


Another part of the kit is a stainless steel spoon engraved with the words PROPERTY OF DOME-MARS NATIONAL KIBBUZIM. I think "kibbuzim" is just an alternate spelling of "kibbutzim", a communal work collective.


Quail is put under sedation for the memory implant procedure with narkidrine. This appears to be a fictional drug. Author Piers Anthony borrows the term for the novelization of Total Recall.


When he finds his memory implant is only partially successful, Quail threatens to take it up with the Better Business Bureau. The Better Business Bureau is an organization of local franchises across the U.S. and Canada meant to promote business and alert consumers and businesses to frauds. The BBB, however, is a private corporation in itself and has, at times, come under criticism for alleged bias and selling of favorable ratings.


When he gets home, Quail decides to type out a letter of complaint about Rekal to the Better Business Bureau, sitting himself down in front of his Hermes Rocket portable. Hermes was a real world maker of typewriters from 1935-1981.


The Interplan agents reveal to Quail that they have a telepathic transmitter planted in his skull; a living plasma that had been discovered on the Moon, which transmits his thoughts to others wearing a special receiving device in their ear. One of the agents ironically warns Quail, "Anything you think may be held against you."


Quail recalls reading about the tele-transmitters in the homeopapes. "Homeopape" is short for "homeostatic newspaper" a term invented by Dick for a newspaper produced by machine without direct human assistance; a person merely tells the device what topics he is interested in and it prints out up-to-the-minute news on the subject. Not much different from modern-day Google search! Dick used the term in a number of his stories.


Quail comments that the two agents chasing him are armed with sneaky-pete guns. I can find no real world references to a sneaky-pete gun. Possibly it is meant to describe a hidden or disguised gun similar to a sneaky-pete pool cue, a professional two-piece pool cue used by hustlers and designed to look like a cheap house cue.


A semi-bird called a pert is said to have been imported to Earth from Mars' two moons.


When Quail agrees to turn himself in to Interplan, they tell him to go to their main barracks at 580 Fifth Avenue, New York. In the real world, this is the address of the Gemological Institute of America.


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