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It involves a man struggling to make his way through a harsh, arctic-like environment. He has to battle his way to a doorway or something like that. Finally he makes it to what proves to be an exit. He’s revealed to be from a world so idyllic that recreation is a stint in a box with a harsh simulation.

I would have read it in the 1970s in a hardcover anthology, probably from the school library.

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  • Maybe by Keith Laumer?
    – Andrew
    Commented Jun 11 at 23:32

1 Answer 1

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In the Imagicon by George Henry Smith, perhaps. It's available online and features an arctic environment:

The first thing he heard when he came out of the Imagicon was the howling of the wind and the first thing he felt was the numbing cold. The next thing that assaulted his ears was the rasping screech of his wife's voice. "So you finally came out of it, did you?" Nona was yelling. "It's about time, you good-for- nothing little runt!" So he was really back on Nestrond, back on the coldest hell of a colonial world in any universe. He had often thought that he would never return. But here he was . . . back on Nestrond and back with Nona.

A desperate struggle to get to the chamber

If the pain hadn't already been more than reason could bear, he wouldn't have had the courage to roll off the table and begin crawling toward the black box, leaving a trail of blood behind him. The black box. Somehow he knew it represented a surcease from pain, a promise of ultimate safety. He reached it without their being aware of his actions, and by making a supreme effort, he pulled himself up high enough to press his palm against the sensor that identified him instantly and was the only thing in this or any other universe that could open it.

and paradise:

The Imagicon had worked! It had worked once again! It had taken him to the world of imagination and back again to reality . . . to wonderful, wonderful reality! Dandor sat up and looked around at his own warm, marvelous world. It was the world of Earth in 22300, the world a hundred years after The Plague. The Plague which had attacked the male genes and reduced the male population to a few thousand and made each man the center of an eager and worshipful harem of women. Many of the surviving men had not been able to stand the strain. Too many years of adoration, too many years of having everything and every woman they wanted had proved too much for them. Then there had come the Imagicon, the invention that made any world a man desired seem absolutely real. Some men had used it to create even more exotic and wonderful worlds than the one they lived in, but that had been only more of a good thing and had made them more dissatisfied than ever. Dandor had been wise. With his Imagicon, he had created an entirely different kind of world . . . a world of cold and terror called Nestrond. Dandor had known a great truth. What good was paradise without something to compare it to? Without a taste of hell from time to time, how could a man appreciate heaven?

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    I believe that's it. That seems to hit the notes I recall. I probably would have read it in one of those Nebula Award collections. Seems like something our school library would have had. Commented Jun 13 at 17:17
  • 1
    And thanks so much! Commented Jun 13 at 17:17

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