Apotheosis fiction
July 18, 2008 2:24 AM   Subscribe

Fiction Filter: Help me find stories involving apotheosis (glorification of an individual as divine). Books or movies - it doesn't matter.

As well as fiction where one of the main characters is worshipped as or assumes the position of a god, I'd also probably include those stories where the character receives or develops god-like powers or abilities.

Examples I've already collected would be Paul Atreides from the Dune books by Frank Herbert or the book "Expecting Someone Taller" by Tom Robb (where, by virtue of the Tarnhelm and Ring, pretty much becomes the accidental Master of the Universe, much to Wotans dismay).

Can anyone think of any others? (I know at least one more is out there - trouble is I only read it once about 20 years ago and can't recall much about it).
posted by ninazer0 to Media & Arts (42 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Mary Renault's Alexander trilogy (fictionalised history) - where he is told he is the son of a god (Fire from Heaven) then partly out of conviction and partly realpolitik insists on having "divine honours paid to him" (Persan Boy). And don't the kiddies in the Narnia books get deified in The Last Battle?
posted by runincircles at 2:55 AM on July 18, 2008

Gulliver's travels maybe?
posted by rongorongo at 3:06 AM on July 18, 2008

Tongue in cheek, I know; Life of Brian.

On a more serious note, the Emperor San from Steph Swainston's fantastic In The Year of Our War series is able, amongst other things, able to grant immortality to those who serve him; the book is told from the POV of one of his immortals. I highly recommend the series.
posted by rodgerd at 3:08 AM on July 18, 2008

Well there is Herakles who is raised by Zeus when he dies.

The wikipedia article on apotheosis mentions mankind at the end of Arthur C. Clark's Childhood's End.
posted by Carillon at 3:11 AM on July 18, 2008

I don't know if this is what you're looking for, but a few things come to mind.

Terry Pratchett's Thief of Time involves characters who discover that they're the personification of Time. There's a monastery that (kind of) worships them, too. Small Gods would also qualify, since it tells the story of Om, a 'small god' (essentially a spirit in the wilderness) who achieves Godhood, loses it, becomes a tortoise, and regains his powers again.

American Gods and its sequel Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman both involve characters discovering that they're gods.

If we push the definition a bit harder, then I think we can include Wintermute in Neuromancer by William Gibson.

Further along that vein, Charles Stross's Accelerando involves a number of things assuming Godlike powers. And although it's not a central focus of the book, Eschaton in Singularity Sky is pretty much God, despite denying this.
posted by xchmp at 3:40 AM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Kipling. The Man Who Would Be King.
posted by Leon at 3:58 AM on July 18, 2008

Robert Graves Claudius the God is about Claudius becoming Roman Emperor. He is subsequently deified; although unlike the gods in the other books mentioned so far doesn't actually gain any powers.
posted by siskin at 4:01 AM on July 18, 2008

Roger Zelazney, Lord of Light has an uber-caste of technological 'Gods' based on hindu mythology. Its main protagonist assumess the role of Buddha

David Zindell's Neverness and its sequels deals with various paths to goodhood and the religions that spring up in their wake.

The recently late Thomas Disch's book The Word of God has Mr Disch deciding that he's God.

Bonus: C3PO amongst the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi
posted by Sparx at 4:09 AM on July 18, 2008

Stargate (the movie more than the series)
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:13 AM on July 18, 2008

Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series.
posted by diogenes at 4:40 AM on July 18, 2008

Stranger in a Strange Land. Not the best read, though.

I will second the Neverness series - amazingly good books.
posted by Shebear at 4:46 AM on July 18, 2008

The Matrix?
posted by tiny crocodile at 4:49 AM on July 18, 2008

L. Ron Hubbard / Scientology / Dianetics
posted by ReiToei at 5:06 AM on July 18, 2008

Brian Stableford's 1979 science fiction novel The Walking Shadow tells the tale of Paul Heisenberg, a new age evangelical rock star who suddenly freezes into a silver statue in front of an audience of 80,000 people, effectively allowing him to jump through time.

When he wakes many years later he finds the US devastated by a nuclear war. He also finds that other people, many of whom worship him, have also developed the ability to jump via stasis and are leaping repeatedly to search for him. Paul continues to jump, eventually encountering an alien race called The La, an immortal super computer and something much, much worse near the end of time.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:44 AM on July 18, 2008

Apotheosis is the entire plotline of the comic book The Replacement God. A lot of apotheosis stories take a pretty solemn approach, but The Replacement God is full of adventure and comedy. You'll love it if you like the comic Bone.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:52 AM on July 18, 2008

The Revelation Space trilogy is one.
posted by shothotbot at 5:55 AM on July 18, 2008

C3PO (to the ewoks) in RotJ

posted by softlord at 5:58 AM on July 18, 2008

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
posted by kimdog at 6:04 AM on July 18, 2008

Cloud Atlas.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 6:13 AM on July 18, 2008

The Gospel According to Mark, a short story by Jorge Luis Borges.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 6:19 AM on July 18, 2008

Ursula LeQuin The Birthday of the World
posted by nax at 6:26 AM on July 18, 2008

In Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan is described as "god."
In David and Leigh Eddings' universes (The Belgariad/Malloreon universe and the Elenium/Tamuli universe) the protagonists engage in hand to hand combat with gods and win.
posted by mkb at 7:02 AM on July 18, 2008

Bruce Almighty

Report on the Barnhouse Effect, a short story by Kurt Vonnegut
posted by perpetualstroll at 7:06 AM on July 18, 2008

The villain of Buffy season five was treated as a goddess, and was named Glorificus. She did have some substantial powers, though, so she could actually have been a goddess, depending on how you define terms.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:22 AM on July 18, 2008

Gorman Bechard's The Second Greatest Story Ever Told has, as its main protagonist, the Daughter of God. And it is a great book.

The short story "Understand" in Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others involves someone taking a smart drug and receiving godlike abilities. It is one of my favorite short stories ever on this theme, because it is told in the first person, which is very hard to do convincingly with this particular concept.

Vernor Vinge's True Names has elements of this concept in its conclusion, but I can't go into further detail without it spoiling the novella. However, it's especially worth a read since it essentially forecasted cybercommunities, handles, and the Internet in general in 1983, when the 'Net was barely a twinkle in anyone's eye.
posted by WCityMike at 8:02 AM on July 18, 2008

Some movies:

Hal Hartley's Book of Life
Adrian Shergold's The Second Coming
Denys Arcand's Jesus of Montreal

Three very, very different takes on modern-day son of god scenarios.
posted by ook at 8:43 AM on July 18, 2008

A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter Miller
posted by disclaimer at 8:57 AM on July 18, 2008

Julian May's long connected sci-fi series The Saga of Pliocene Exile, Intervention, and The Milieu Trilogy have a protagonist (more of an anti-hero actually) who becomes god-like, more or less. To say anything more would spoil it if you actually intend to read the series. The above link, however, does contain spoilers.
posted by elendil71 at 8:58 AM on July 18, 2008

At the end of Peter F. Hamilton's "Night's Dawn Trilogy", one of the main characters is given the power to rearrange whole solar systems (including their stars). Not just godlike, but Deus Ex Machina, as well.
posted by signal at 9:00 AM on July 18, 2008

The Book of the New Sun has quite a few messianic elements.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:00 AM on July 18, 2008

Since someone already mentioned Buffy, I'll throw in Angel, which I think has some better examples of this. Cordy goes from human to part demon to higher being. Angel also has Jasmine in the 4th season, a goddess that humans actually worship (as opposed to Glorificus, who pretty much just had those scabby demon worshippers).

Battlestar Galactica also touches on this a couple of different ways -- most notably Gaius Baltar and the Final Five.
posted by natabat at 9:10 AM on July 18, 2008

The Emperor of the Imperium in the Warhammer 40,000 universe is a grand example of this. You'd probably want to read the Horus Heresy series of novels.
posted by Caduceus at 10:48 AM on July 18, 2008

The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy by Guy Gavriel Kay is a pretty good example. One of the characters becomes something like a demi-god or messianic figure. He never becomes worshipped, that I remember, but he does gain some powers and wisdom.
posted by ashirys at 11:01 AM on July 18, 2008

Tommy, the film.
posted by ROTFL at 11:21 AM on July 18, 2008

I think Gabriel García Márquez's short story "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World" would qualify (and it's a great story). The main character, Esteban, comes to be worshiped as a sort-of God-like figure by the townspeople who find him dead, washed up on a beach. It's in his Collected Stories.
posted by wheat at 12:05 PM on July 18, 2008

Several of Philip K Dick's novels involve people or things with god-like qualities. Eg. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Ubik.
posted by blue grama at 12:57 PM on July 18, 2008

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
posted by CrazyJoel at 1:01 PM on July 18, 2008

Don't forget Dave Sim's Cerebus. He becomes Pope in the "Church and State" volume.
It's also a fairly common episode plot in various sci-fi series. (Futurama leaps to mind).
posted by arcanecrowbar at 1:50 PM on July 18, 2008

Shebear, what? I guess Stranger In A Strange Land isn't "the best read" if you hate Heinlein (which I suppose some do). However, it's still a classic of golden age science fiction by an acknowledged Grand Master of the genre, and it's as funny as all get-out. And it fits the OP's request perfectly.
posted by lhauser at 4:30 PM on July 18, 2008

Good grief - I own a few of these and didn't think of them at all (including Stranger in a Strange Land, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Neverness, Lords of Light etc). I appear to be brain-dead, obviously.

Thanks so much for your suggestions - I'm settling down to go through them and find copies now. MeFi never ceases to amaze me.
posted by ninazer0 at 5:04 PM on July 18, 2008

I guess Stranger In A Strange Land isn't "the best read" if you hate Heinlein
Personally, I don't so much hate Heinlein as have a limited tolerance for descriptions of genius-level, nubile, drop dead gorgeous women throwing themselves at cranky old men for no apparent reason.
posted by signal at 7:00 PM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Microcosmic God
posted by marsha56 at 7:11 PM on July 18, 2008

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