Post by firstname.lastname@example.org
The one from our (1950s) world is a meek, sickly British prole,
living his life of quiet desperation in a terrace house with his
wife. The other is a bored starship captain, weary with ennui at
how he can have anything he desires, and all has become so
predictable. They both decide to commit suicide by jumping into
the river -- but instead of the quick impact they both wind up
flying through a featureless gray void, passing each other midway
-- and then each is somehow mistaken for the other, futuristic
medicine rapidly rendering our hero into a strong, vigorous guy
who gets into his new role, using unexpected tactics to win space
battles. Meanwhile back in England our other hero beats up the
neighborhood bully, winning 'his' wife's and the neighbors'
adoring respect . Then somehow, again they're hurtling through the
void, passing (and this time recognizing) each other, and upon
arrival finding that each has improved the other's lot, happy
endings all around. "Tomorrow" may have been in the title. Any
idea what it was?
None whatsoever, but it brings to mind a YASID of my own that's of
vaguely similar theme, a short story or maybe novelette that I read
in the very late 1960s in an anthology that I _think_ was themed
as "stories set in the distant future."
A man is living two alternating and utterly different lives:
1. He is the supreme ruler of a vast space empire, with all that
he desires (e.g., a harem of unearthly beautiful and sexually
skilled women) his merely for the utterance of his wishes. But he
has recurring, vivid and internally consistently progressive
dreams -- nightmares -- in which he has a horrible existence as a
tormented laborer living in horribly unpleasant conditions.
2. He's an isolated prospector/miner eking out an existence on a
borderline-uninhabitable planet, stuck in a tiny and unpleasant
survival hut with an utter harridan -- to and beyond the point of
evil sociopathy -- of a wife who tortures him psychologically
and, without damaging him enough that he can't daily perform his
back-breaking labor, physically. But, he has access to what we'd
today call a fully immersive virtual reality rig which he can
sometimes use -- his wife is a major impediment to frequent use,
of course -- to live a fantasy, vivid and internally consistently
progressive fantasy as the supreme ruler of a vast space empire,
everything he wants his merely for the utterance of his wishes.
He reasons that only one of these lives is real, but he's utterly
unable to determine whether (a) the terrible one is real and the
other a fantasy which he can thank god sometimes temporarily escape
into, or (b) the life of utter luxury is real, but his mind is
creating a recurring exactly-opposite false reality in order to
keep him from going psychologically flatline from boredom. And
it's never revealed to the reader either which is real.
*1: Or a variant he considers: deadly bored by his perfect
life, he himself has *knowingly* set up the nightmares
via far-future mind-tech at his disposal, and in order
to make it work he has deliberately had all knowledge of
that wiped from his mind.