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.