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A group of science fiction writers are sitting around taking turn discussing their profession, where they get their inspiration from, various things that have happened to them during their careers.

After a series of reasonably normal anecdotes, one of them tells the others that he woke up one morning in a parallel universe, quite similar to the regular world but with enough differences that he could make a living as a science fiction writer simply by writing about everyday occurrences at home. Meanwhile he searched constantly for a way to return.

The others initially take this in good humour before gradually coming to realise that he's serious, and start pointing out various flaws in his story demonstrating how ridiculous this is. Eventually one of them asks if this true, then how did he ever get back home.

The last line is something like

"I didn't", he said sadly. "I'm still here."

(I can't remember if the names used are real sci-fi writers, and a sort of inside joke, or fictional). I would have read it sometime in the mid-80s, probably in an anthology. I think it was in a local library, so the book may have been a few years older.

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Sounds very much like Edmond Hamilton's "Exile", first published in Super Science Stories, May 1943 but anthologized many times (see first link).

The narrator regrets that the talk got round to science fiction, as but for that he wouldn't be "haunted" by the story. The actual last sentences go:

Carrick shook his head somberly as he rose to leave. "No, I never got back home," he said soberly. "I'm still here."

  • Brilliant, that's it! Thanks a million, that's been popping into my head on and off for years. Great to have finally tracked it down! – Mohirl Jul 24 at 14:41
  • That issue doesn't appear to be available at the internet archive, unfortunately. – DavidW Jul 24 at 15:54
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    But it is online at docsford.com/document/1881827 - some site I've never come across before. – Mike Stone Jul 24 at 16:24
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    Unless this Spanish translation (cannot open the English version linked to above right now) is somehow off, the aspect "he woke up one morning in a parallel universe, quite similar to the regular world" mentioned by the OP doesn't seem quite accurate. Not saying this isn't the story (the OP confirmed this and accepted, after all), but it usually seems helpful to point out both matches and deviations between question and actual story in ID questions, if only to avoid giving rise to wrong expectations to other readers. – O. R. Mapper Jul 24 at 23:59
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    Sounds rather like Niven's "For a Foggy Night". – Rob Crawford Jul 25 at 17:58

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