The Nine Billion Stories About God?
December 7, 2009 10:01 AM   Subscribe

Please link me to Sci-Fi or Fantasy stories involving God--especially "surprise" God.

I'm curious about Sci-Fi or Fantasy stories like the Nine Billion Names of God. Basically any stories in which God is a character--especially those in which God is a "surprise" character.

If you think a story might be relevant, please pass it along!

Thanks Everyone!
posted by jefficator to Media & Arts (52 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Arthur C. Clarke's The Star leapt to mind, although it may not be exactly what you're looking for. It's short and online, though - also, awesome.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:03 AM on December 7, 2009

Calculating God
Robert J Sawyer.
posted by digividal at 10:05 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

His Dark Materials
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:12 AM on December 7, 2009

In the "His Dark Materials" trilogy by Phillip Pullman, there is an ancient, senile god called the Authority who has has managed to convince the rest of the world that he is the Creator.
posted by JaredSeth at 10:14 AM on December 7, 2009

Cloud Atlas's middle section, a post-apocalyptic tale, features a God that is a character in an earlier segment.
posted by ORthey at 10:15 AM on December 7, 2009

Not exactly a story in the literary sense, but Futurama sort of addresses the role and existence of God in the episode, Godfellas. It's season four, episode eight. In that episode, Bender is lost in space and by chance, life springs to on his body and quickly turns into a civilization which worship Bender as god. And God does have an appearance near the end.
posted by Atreides at 10:17 AM on December 7, 2009

The Sparrow
Children of God
Mary Doria Russell
posted by digividal at 10:18 AM on December 7, 2009

Not exactly what you're looking for given that god is only implied, but Niven and Pournelle's Inferno is a reworking of Dante's Inferno, with a science fiction author as the protagonist, and its sequel, Escape from Hell.

More at what you're looking for, but something I have yet to finish, is the Space trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength) by C. S. Lewis. Rather obviously, he included God and Christian themes in all of his books (that I can recall, anyway).
posted by neewom at 10:20 AM on December 7, 2009

Preacher? Sort of fantasy, God has fled heaven, and several parties are in search of him.
posted by still at 10:20 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday
posted by Joe Beese at 10:21 AM on December 7, 2009

The new Battlestar Galactica, anyone?
posted by valkyryn at 10:21 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Zelazny's Lord of Light draws heavily from the Hindu pantheon for its characters, although I'm not sure it follows the exact letter of your specifications. (Sorry to be vague; I can't remember to what extent the situation re: gods is a spoiler for the plot.)
posted by dorque at 10:24 AM on December 7, 2009

Not um, the biblical Christian God. But one of the secondary main characters in the Dragonlance Chronicles novels is [SPOILER ALERT] actually a god.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:24 AM on December 7, 2009

Oh also definitely (again not christian God) but American Gods and Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman both feature surprise god(s).
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:25 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

There is an episode of Futurama (Godfellas) that has God in it.
posted by mmmbacon at 10:25 AM on December 7, 2009

Oh, and there's Towing Jehovah, which features at least the corpse of God...
posted by dorque at 10:28 AM on December 7, 2009 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Surprise God? That can only be: The Answer

The story is "Answer," from Angels and Spaceships, by Fredric Brown (Dutton, 1954). Here is the original text:

Dwar Ev ceremoniously soldered the final connection with gold. The eyes of a dozen television cameras watched him and the subether bore through the universe a dozen pictures of what he was doing.

He straightened and nodded to Dwar Reyn, then moved to a position beside the switch that would complete the contact when he threw it. The switch that would connect, all at once, all of the monster computing machines of all the populated planets in the universe--ninety-six billion planets--into the supercircuit that would connect them all into the one supercalculator, one cybernetics machine that would combine all the knowledge of all the galaxies.

Dwar Reyn spoke briefly to the watching and listening trillions. Then, after a moment's silence, he said, "Now, Dwar Ev."

Dwar Ev threw the switch. There was a mighty hum, the surge of power from ninety-six billion planets. Lights flashed and quieted along the miles-long panel.

Dwar Ev stepped back and drew a deep breath. "The honor of asking the first question is yours, Dwar Reyn."

"Thank you," said Dwar Reyn. "It shall be a question that no single cybernetics machine has been able to answer."

He turned to face the machine. "Is there a God?"

The mighty voice answered without hesitation, without the clicking of single relay.

"Yes, now there is a God."

Sudden fear flashed on the face of Dwar Ev. He leaped to grab the switch.

A bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky struck him down and fused the switch shut.*

posted by Comrade_robot at 10:30 AM on December 7, 2009 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not sure if this counts 100% against your criteria, but I always enjoyed this short story by Asimov, The Last Question.
posted by nerhael at 10:31 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Never read it myself but I remember being recommended a book called Towing Jehova. Its about God's gigantic corpse being found floating in the ocean so the Angels and the Vatican hire some guy to tow it to a crypt in Antartica before anyone finds out.
posted by Nyarlathotep at 10:33 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Forever Free, by Joe Haldeman.
posted by Freaky at 10:37 AM on December 7, 2009

Neil Gaiman's story "Murder Mysteries."
posted by infinitewindow at 10:44 AM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books.
posted by buzzbash at 10:51 AM on December 7, 2009

Hell Is the Absence of God by Ted Chiang.
posted by mikesch at 10:56 AM on December 7, 2009

In the movie Dogma. God looks like Alanis Morrisette and loves to play Skeeball. She also makes Ben Affleck's head explode, which goes on the plus column for me.

I assume the Old Testament doesn't count? Robert Crumb just released a Graphic Novel version of it.
posted by cross_impact at 10:58 AM on December 7, 2009

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
posted by Crackerbelly at 11:00 AM on December 7, 2009

David and Leigh Edding's The Redemption of Althulus has a main character who's a god, though not the Biblical God.
posted by jmd82 at 11:01 AM on December 7, 2009

Not tradional Sci-Fi, but I recommend Sum: FOrty Tales from the Afterlives
posted by dzot at 11:03 AM on December 7, 2009

Perhaps other Mefites can help with a name, I recall a short story, pretty old I think, featuring an atheist/agnostic and a pastor who are friends, whose Earth is invaded by aliens and are forced to come to the conclusion that God has got fed up with humans and the aliens are now the chosen people sent to wipe out humanity.
posted by biffa at 11:44 AM on December 7, 2009

Not sure if it qualifies as sci fi, but God has a role in The Acid House by Irvine Welsh.
posted by utsutsu at 11:47 AM on December 7, 2009

Only Begotten Daughter by James Morrow has Christ returning as a woman.

"The God Gun" is a short story by Barrington Bayley about a man who tries to kill God. I found the ending pretty haunting.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:08 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Margerets, by Sheri Tepper.

The God-thing appears suddenly at the end, having orchestrated large portions of the plot. It's also a really amazing book that's almost nothing like most sci-fi being written now. Reminds me of New Worlds stuff but at contemporary sci-fi length.
posted by kittensofthenight at 12:20 PM on December 7, 2009

The Nights Dawn trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton is all about souls and seems to be about a god, (I am on book 3, The Naked God, right now).
posted by shothotbot at 12:23 PM on December 7, 2009

oh: the margarets

a double review from strange horizons.
posted by kittensofthenight at 12:24 PM on December 7, 2009

I don't think "God" appears as such, but you might be interested in Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld series, which deals with the afterlife and does feature religious figures like the Buddha as characters.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:26 PM on December 7, 2009

At the end of The Stand by Stephen King, God physically intervenes in a conflict via a literal "hand of god" setting off a nuke. It's somewhat of a surprise in that the reader can't be sure how literally to take the religious pieces up until then.
posted by cseibert at 12:30 PM on December 7, 2009

Along the lines of The Answer is Asimov's short story The Last Question. A little more subtle.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:53 PM on December 7, 2009

2nding Neil Gaiman's "Murder Mysteries." Brilliant, brilliant story.
posted by cali59 at 1:32 PM on December 7, 2009

Gene Wolfe's series "Book of the New Sun" (more subtly) and "Book of the Long Sun" (a little more obviously with Silk's musings on The Outsider).
posted by aught at 1:53 PM on December 7, 2009

Steven Brust's To Reign in Hell fits, loosely - lots of biblical names from the get-go, all Angels, but there's a twist in there.
posted by GJSchaller at 3:07 PM on December 7, 2009

Job: A Comedy of Justice describes God as one would describe any ordinary character; I don't recall if God specifically appears though.
posted by zompus at 3:13 PM on December 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not sure if you are only looking for stories about a monotheistic-style "God"-type god, but if you are interested in "gods" (as in, more like Greek gods), here are a few:

Fire Upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge (love this book)

Some folks have mentioned Neil Gaiman - gods and god-like creatures abound in his Sandman series

Neverness, by David Zindell, and sequels (also really love these)

Ilium & Olympos, Dan Simmons (Greek gods, very literally)
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 3:49 PM on December 7, 2009

Terry Pratchett's The Last Continent has a bit about the God of Evolution.
posted by HFSH at 4:59 PM on December 7, 2009

Godbody by Theodore Sturgeon
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 5:30 PM on December 7, 2009

The Samaria series by Sharon Shinn...God is a spaceship.
posted by maryrussell at 6:18 PM on December 7, 2009

Job: A Comedy of Justice describes God as one would describe any ordinary character; I don't recall if God specifically appears though.

Appears, and justifies the word "Comedy", if memory serves. I only hope they get it made into a movie in time to cast Mel Brooks as Yahweh.
posted by roystgnr at 6:36 PM on December 7, 2009

Psychoshop by Alfred Bester and Robert Zelazny
posted by dchrssyr at 7:15 PM on December 7, 2009

Waiting For The Galactic Bus and Snake Oil Wars by Parke Godwin. Fan-freaking-tastic use of God (and his brother, the Devil) as characters. Can't recommend highly enough. Towing Jehovah and the rest of James Morrow's books are good but kind of depressing. Waiting For The Galactic Bus is funny and touching and terrifying and makes me laugh and cry every time I read it.
posted by irisclara at 9:41 PM on December 7, 2009

Kiln People by David Brinn. God is definitely a character.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:42 PM on December 7, 2009

It's specifically Jesus rather than God in general, but I love the collection A Cross of Centuries: Twenty-five Imaginative Tales About the Christ. There are a lot of great, unexpected representations of Jesus in there by some pretty big names. (I know the title sounds like something you'd buy at Guideposts or whatever, but don't let the name fool you—it's a great collection. This is coming from an atheist-leaning agnostic.)
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 11:02 PM on December 7, 2009

Tom Holt's Only Human. God goes on vacation. Hilarity (i.e. chaos) ensues.
posted by MelanieL at 1:03 AM on December 8, 2009

The Rama series by Clarke and Lee culminates with Rama Revealed. The series consists of four novels and in the final the topic of god is touched on pretty directly. One of my favorite series. Gave me a lot to think about as a college student.
posted by Gainesvillain at 8:06 AM on December 8, 2009

I'm surprised no one mentioned Philip K Dick's VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System). The book is a semi-autobiographical novel written after PKD had developed schizophrenia and in which he writes about communicating with a god that is a reality-controlling satellite.
posted by prunes at 6:29 PM on December 9, 2009

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