A man is trapped in a computer or Virtual Reality experiment. The people running the experiment feed clues into the simulation to let the man know he is trapped and to give him information on how to get out.

NOT like the story 'Outside'.

This may have been Sci-Fi for young people from the 1960s.

  • I think a short novel. I belive the passage of time was in 'real time'. I recall passages where the man is described on a slab where he is attached to the system.
    – Craig
    Jan 17, 2014 at 20:52
  • He does get enough clues or info to get out.
    – Craig
    Jan 17, 2014 at 20:52
  • I just added to the main posting that this was from a 1960's novel I read as a child.
    – Craig
    Jan 17, 2014 at 20:54
  • Is there some kind of "animal" theme, like he's trying to join a virtual lion pack or something?
    – Valorum
    Jan 17, 2014 at 21:01
  • 2
    Reminds me of "Overdrawn at the Memory Bank" by John Varley, where a man has his consciousness transferred into a lion for a vacation. Due to a mix-up his body gets misplaced, and after his vacation is up, they have to temporarily transfer him into a computer without his knowledge. There's a big thing about someone from the outside communicating with him, though his brain converts it to disembodied hands writing on walls, pamphlets appearing, words appearing on his computer, etc. But that was published in 1976, so doesn't fit your 1960s time frame.
    – Joe White
    Jan 20, 2014 at 20:32

5 Answers 5


I offer another possible answer: Time out of joint, also by Philip K. Dick (1959), in which a man is living in an artificial reality. He gets some clues about his real status, but they are not provided in order for him to escape; on the contrary, they are caused by imperfections in the virtual reality. And it's definitely not a story for young people.


I'm wondering if this is Ubik, by Philip K Dick. It's 1969, but not for young people (though I read it as a teenager). It's certainly about artificial reality and feeding clues to someone trapped inside. I believe there's a description of a man on a slab.

From Goodreads:

Glen Runciter runs a lucrative business—deploying his teams of anti-psychics to corporate clients who want privacy and security from psychic spies. But when he and his top team are ambushed by a rival, he is gravely injured and placed in “half-life,” a dreamlike state of suspended animation. Soon, though, the surviving members of the team begin experiencing some strange phenomena, such as Runciter’s face appearing on coins and the world seeming to move backward in time. As consumables deteriorate and technology gets ever more primitive, the group needs to find out what is causing the shifts and what a mysterious product called Ubik has to do with it all.


I have not read the book but I did some searching and it seems you may be referring to a short story from Stanislaw Lem possibly named "IJON TICHY'S MEMORIES" (1960).

From StrangePegs:

Remember Stanislaw Lem (from this post)? Well, in 1960, he had a short story, "IJON TICHY'S MEMORIES," in which a scientist creates an entire virtual world (and, evidently, traps people within it). Trapped in this virtual world is another scientist who creates a virtual world. Yes, within the first one.

  • I have ordered the collection this in. Perhaps this is it! Thanks
    – Craig
    Jan 20, 2014 at 12:34
  • Did you figure out if that was it @Craig?
    – sayguh
    Mar 5, 2014 at 17:13
  • I think the date of 1960 might be incorrect, the bibliography at homepages.rpi.edu/~sofkam/lem indicates that all the Ijon Tichy stories were from the 1970s and 1980s.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jul 19, 2014 at 23:55

Could it be Simulacron-3 by Daniel F. Galouye from 1964?

In the main character's world they have begun to create simulated worlds of their own, gradually various suspicious events drive him to the conclusion that his own world is a simulation too. It turns out that his appearance and personality are actually based on those of the "real" person running the simulation, the Operator, and the Operator isn't willing to just reprogram his memories or have him killed, but instead enjoys playing with him...

Meanwhile the Operator's lover is falling in love with the simulated version (the 'real' version has apparently become mad with power, so the simulated version reminds her of the man she originally fell in love with) and is trying to help him. Here's what she says about why the Operator let him live:

"It wasn't until yesterday," she went on, "that I realized he could have solved his problem, as far as you were concerned, any time he wanted, simply by reorienting you. But no. There was too much perverted gratification to be had by letting you come close to Fuller's secret, then pushing you away, steering you all the while toward some such fate as he arranged for Collingsworth."

Eventually the simulated version is somehow able to overwrite the personality of the version in the "real" world, and wakes up there. You mentioned that the simulation is in realtime, that's true in this story:

"Even the Operator can't stay at it twenty-four hours a day. This world is on a time-equivalent basis with the real one."

And you mentioned a scene where he's on a "slab" to interface with the virtual reality, here's the scene where he wakes up in the real world, though it sounds like more of a couch:

Confounded, I opened my eyes and was instantly confronted with the effects of a strange room spread out all about me. Although it was a room I had never seen before, I could recognize the simulectronic nature of the equipment that filled almost all available space. I glanced down and saw that I lay on a couch much like the one I had used before while coupled with reactional units in Fuller's simulator. I reached up and removed the empathy helmet, then sat staring incomprehensively at it. There was a couch next to mine. Its leather surface still bore the indentation of the person who had occupied it -- for a long while, judging from the depth of the impression. On the floor nearby were the shattered remains of another headpiece that had evidently been dropped or hurled aside.

If this isn't the one, there are a number of other early virtual reality stories mentioned at the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.


“ I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” Harlan Ellison 1967

More so about a group of people (with one man as the narrator), trapped in a computer called “AM” (I believe) that tortured them.

  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Can you identify how this matches the specific detail that there are people outside the simulation feeding information in on how to escape?
    – DavidW
    Jun 6 at 14:12
  • 4
    This cannot possibly be the correct answer. The characters in "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" are not trapped in a computer (they're trapped by a computer, which is not the same thing), and there's no-one on the outside helping them escape because, aside from the fact there's nowhere for them to escape to, they are quite literally the only humans left alive.
    – F1Krazy
    Jun 6 at 14:15
  • It has been many years since I’ve read “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”. I read “1960’s Sci-Fi” and immediately thought of Harlan Ellison’s novel. Jun 7 at 15:20

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