When one reader got split into five men, Raymond A. Palmer, the editor of Golden Age SF Pulp Fantastic Adventures, found he had his hands full!
Following up on clues from Robert Louis Stevenson, a scientist invents a potion that separates the evil facet of the self from the good. A friend, Clyde Woodruff, drinks it and...not one, but four facets split off: a killer, a liar, a fool and a coward—each of which looks down on the others and views itself as the "real" self.
When Woodruff loses his girlfriend, reputation, and nearly his freedom due to the killer and the liar, his original self writes up the entire story and mails it to the legendary Raymond A. Palmer, then the real-life editor of the very real pulp Fantastic Adventures, asking for his help in unraveling the mess and proving the existence of his real self. Woodruff also sends Palmer a very hefty payment and round-trip ticket. What self-respecting sf editor could resist?
Here is a forgotten, never-reprinted "thought-variant" mind-bender that probes so deep into issues of identity and its validation you may find your brain twisted inside-out like a Klein bottle. From the text: "'First,' he continued, 'though this manuscript was written by the supposedly real Clyde Woodruff, the truth is that I am the real Clyde Woodruff, and I did not write it. The story related in these pages is, nevertheless, true in the main. Its first lie is in the identification of the four other men who were in this room with me. There never was a coward! There was a killer, a fool, a liar and a fourth who was a crafty, ruthless person, shrewd and calculating. In a sense, he was the most complex character of all.'
"Palmer looked at the man before him aghast. Was this the real Clyde Woodruff, the liar, the fool, the crafty, calculating one, or even the coward prevaricating to save his own existence? And if he knew the answer, what could he do about it? How could he possibly help the real Clyde Woodruff? Worse, was there any such thing as the real Clyde Woodruff left to help?"