Kicking off a short run of posts on novels and stories that begat very well-known movie adaptations, we have this:
Amazing Stories, Galaxy and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the 1950s and '60s, and which were then collected for a Gollancz hardback in 1969, which was then reissued three years later in this SFBC edition. (Still with me at the back?) I bought this copy in Much Ado Books in Alfriston, East Sussex on my birthday day out wayyyy back in March – and I still haven't blogged about all the books I bought that day, which'll give you some idea of how far behind I am on book-blogging. Still, the beauty of writing about old books is, there are no pressing deadlines on the buggers: they're already old, so it hardly matters when I get round to blogging about 'em.
Anyway, the reason this copy of The Preserving Machine and Other Stories caught my eye wasn't because it's terribly scarce or valuable in this edition – there are a few copies of the SFBC printing for sale on AbeBooks for around a tenner, although the original Gollancz edition goes for more like upwards of eighty quid – but because of one of the stories in it:
"We Can Remember it for You Wholesale", on page 129 there. Y'see, that story was the basis for one of the greatest (I'll brook no argument here) sci-fi action flicks ever made: Paul Verhoeven/Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall (1990). Now, Dick's stories have, of course, provided the inspiration for many films – Blade Runner, Minority Report, The Adjustment Bureau, to name but three – although not having read any of the stories that led to those films I can't offer any insights into how faithful any of them are to Dick's originals. But if the case of "We Can Remember it for You Wholesale" and Total Recall is anything to go by, they might not be as removed from their source material as I've been led to believe.
What's surprising about "We Can Remember it for You Wholesale" is how close it is to Total Recall – at least, up to a point. Both the story and the movie follow Douglas Quaid, an everyday guy in a loveless marriage who is inexplicably drawn to Mars. Realising that he'll never be able to go to the planet in person, Quaid visits the offices of Rekal, Incorporated (travelling there and back in a taxi driven by a robot – as in the film), where he elects to undergo a process that will insert the memories of a trip to Mars into his brain – a trip where he adopts the role of a secret agent. Trouble is, before the process can even begin, Rekal's technicians discover that those memories already exist in Quaid's mind: he is a secret agent, and he did go to Mars. Having now remembered his other life, Quaid finds himself pursued by shadowy security forces intent on killing him.
Where the short story and the movie part ways is directly after this point. In the film, Quaid/Arnie heads off to Mars and gets involved in a Martian revolution. All of that was bolted on to Dick's story by Verhoeven and his writers, Dan O'Bannon et al; Dick's tale ends with Quaid returning to Rekal voluntarily to avoid being killed, there to have another, more outlandish memory implanted to override the secret agent/Mars one – leading to a nice twist that's even more insane than what's gone before. But although the story and the movie diverge here, prior to this juncture they run along remarkably similar lines – right down to those robot taxis.
I always believed there was more depth to Total Recall than many people gave it credit for, and as it turns out, that's because it hews so closely to Dick's original tale, which is thought-provoking and just a little bit mental. Much like the film, in fact.
Next up, I have a book which inspired one film and has close ties with another – and the novel itself was inspired by a notorious real life murder case...