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I've been trying to remember the name of this story and author for days.

The story is Walter Mittyish type about a man who lives a mundane Earthbound office job life during the day, but at night when he's asleep he seamlessly switches into a world of Medieval swords and horses where he's a dashing prince. When the prince falls asleep, the life switches back to the office worker's life. (This has been happening since both of the characters' childhoods, for as long as they can remember.) In the story, the prince's kingdom is threatened, and the office worker attempts to help by memorizing the formula for making gunpowder. The prince doesn't think that his "other" life is real, but he tries the recipe, makes the gunpowder, and the gunpowder helps the prince to win the decisive battle. However, the prince is mortally wounded and dies, and so does the office worker, but the last image is that the face of the office worker has the dashing adventurous grin of the prince on his face.

My father gave me a collection of short stories by this author that included this one. My recollection is that he was a pre-Golden Age author, and might have been foreign (i.e., not a U.S. author). He also relied on dreams in many of his stories.

Any ideas?

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    The type of story you're referencing is often called 'Schrodinger's butterfly', and is used in HP Lovecraft's 'Polaris'. Beyond that, I don't know. – AncientSwordRage Jan 15 '16 at 18:19
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    I read a story like this very recently --I'm thinking it may have been Frank Stockton? The details were a bit different, the alter ego was a knight, not a prince, he was imprisoned in a dungeon by a wizard, and rescued by a woman who also had an alter ego in the other world. – Chris Sunami Jan 15 '16 at 18:51
  • @AncientSwordRage Why do they (TV Tropes, I guess?) call it "Schrodinger's butterfly"? Why isn't it Zhuangzi's butterfly, since he's the guy who wrote about his butterfly dream? – user14111 Apr 15 '16 at 0:07
  • @user14111 because it deals with uncertainty between two states something Schrodinger is well known for. I guess no one knows about Zhuangzi (first I've heard of them). – AncientSwordRage Apr 15 '16 at 6:25
  • Maybe you just didn't recognize the transliteration; his name is written many different ways in English. First time I read about him and his famous butterfly dream, it was something like Chuang Tzu. – user14111 Apr 15 '16 at 9:01
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This is the author of the original question (no time to look up my password); today while pondering the author's first name came to me - Edmund. Following that lead, I found the author, the collection, and the story I was thinking of: Edmond Hamilton, from "What's It Like Out There and Other Stories", and the name of the story is "Dreamer's Worlds". A short period of further investigation indicated that this was probably a story written as a tribute to Edgar Rice Burroughs (via "http://www.michaelmayadventureblog.com/2016/02/dreamers-world-tribute-to-normal-bean.html")

  • Well, I did find my password. ;-) – James Acker Apr 14 '16 at 20:38

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