Certainly there are many Science Fiction writers who touch upon the subject of beings supreme to Man...but always Man is central in writing.

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    Terry Pratchet does this with Death, he speaks in all caps.
    – Throsby
    Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 19:35
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    What a ridiculous generalisation. Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 6:37
  • youtu.be/vrDOS6WO3Fk Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 5:30
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    Stanislav Lem has written a "diary of a god" (sorry, can't tell the title now).
    – celtschk
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 6:14
  • In The Sea's Furthest End by Damien Broderick (1964): "An Immortal Child grows lonely in the dark of eternity, and he knew that there was forgetfulness in the Game." The Player has made himself a re-incarnating human who whenever he reaches age 16 remembers previous lives and the goal of peace but nothing else. I have met believers who think the purpose of the universe is to amuse God. Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 9:23

9 Answers 9


Because God does not have a story arc. If story is the conflict between desire and what stands in the way of the fulfilment of that desire, God cannot have a story arc because nothing can frustrate the desires of God.

There are, of course, stories about gods. But those gods are really supermen. They have limits. They have desires. And they have forces that frustrate their desires. Thus they have the components of a story arc, and thus also they are, for all that matters in story terms, human.

The same applies to the animals in stories like Watership Down or The Wind in the Willows. In story terms, they are human too.

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    Well said. The closest an author could come would be to have God as the PoV, which still poses serious problems, as he is omniscient and omnipotent. Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 16:48
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    Counterexample: apotheosis. Conceptually, a being may lose its human desires and shortcomings upon deification, but it will never lose its story (arc). Goes for Buddha. Jesus. All the big names, really...
    – Will
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 14:11
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    If we assume that a human desires to be a god and achieves divinity, then that is a story arc, certainly. But then being a god, unless limited in a way that makes them a superman rather than a god, there is no further story arc. Note, incidentally, that Jesus is not a case of apotheosis. Jesus is God who became man, not man who became God.
    – user16226
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 14:41
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    "If story is the conflict between desire..." why would this be the definition of story rather than "any series of events"?
    – SkySpiral7
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 22:04
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    Hmm... If you read The Old Testament, it certainly full of both desires and things that frustrate God. For example, the Bible tells how God "took care of" Sarah so she had a child... "Took care of" is translated from a Hebrew word meaning "taking care of" in a "married" way - ie. "having sex"... So it's not exactly a miracle that she had a child. Then there are lots of examples were God's plans are thwarted or must be put on hold - for example when the people the Israelites want to steal the land of, have "iron carriages"... which strangely enough makes God unable to defeat them (for now). Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 19:42

As a counter-point to mbakeranalecta's answer: God can have a story arc albeit one with an obvious victor. For example: the Christian God Yahweh takes human form (with the name Jesus) in the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Since he is omnipotent there is no evenly matched opponent however there is an introduction, a goal, a journey, build up, a climax, and a resolution. There's even suspense at a few points.

Jesus had a desire (to save humanity) and antagonists (namely the pharisees) which stood in the way of the goal. Granted he was never frustrated by their attempts but certainly this qualifies as a story.

Although there are plenty of conflicts, all of them are one-sided. The trick questions given by the pharisees are easily and immediately answered. And if you read the back story (the Old Testament) you'd know that by definition (of omnipotent) God can't fail. Which forms a weird plot armor in that we know that Jesus will die but he will also always succeed (even if painful). And that no force can even slow him down with temptation and death happening exactly as expected. And this exactly what we would expect from an omnipotent main character: people stand in his way but it in no ways hinders his progress.

Stories of a utopia are about a perfect place, writing about a perfect person has some similarities. Writing about a perfect place could have a purpose of "this is the perfect place and we should strive to make our society just like it" likewise writing about a perfect person could have the purpose "this is how a perfect person acts and we should all strive to be like him".

Pretty much the only stories about a perfect person are wrapped in either religion or philosophy because generally speaking these stories aren't as popular. A lack of challenge is considered boring and of course no reader can relate to a perfect person.

My answer answers "can it be done" (yes) and "why would it be done" for a perfect all powerful main character. As for viewpoint: it exists and is called an omniscient third person narrator (whether the narrator is a god or not).

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    I tried to word my answer as neutral as possible to avoid down votes for mentioning the Bible. But that's probably inevitable since haters gonna hate.
    – SkySpiral7
    Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 22:31
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    You certainly got an upvote from this atheist. From the answer I could not even tell whether you are a Cristian, however I sense a slight hint of persecution paranoia in your comment, so you might be ;) (No offence meant, and I cannot see on this SE whether there actually have been downvoted.)
    – Carsten S
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 14:23
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    @CarstenS yes I am. My comment was prompted by another user who posted an answer right before me which didn't answer the question in any way and bashed the idea of a god. His answer has since been removed and I didn't get any down votes so I guess it worked out in the end.
    – SkySpiral7
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 21:56
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    There's lots of conflict in the Jesus story. He certainly gets angry (rage-flipping tables over in the temple.) He certainly suffers, in fact that's really the entire point of Christianity. There's a certain tragic nature to the question that humanity really is willing to condemn and crucify the one human who has never sinned. The reader hopes and roots for another outcome yet it happens, confirming the reader's original sin. It's actually quite an amazing story.
    – djechlin
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 21:59
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    @djechlin good point: I edited my answer for clarity (although it feels less neutral). And OP's question is too vague "Why not x" can mean either "why can't we x" or "why shouldn't we x" etc. I never said I was disagreeing with OP I just did what I could to answer what he might be asking.
    – SkySpiral7
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 23:00

There are plenty of SFF stories which deal with deities. There's an entire Forgotten Realms (D&D) series about gods being forced to take mortal avatars and walk the earth. The Belgariad pentology by David and Leigh Eddings (and less so the sequel pentology, the Malloreon) heavily features deities as significant secondary characters. Rick Riordan writes about Greek, Egyptian, and Norse gods in his various series. This thread has many other suggestions involving deities of various religions.

If you're asking why Yahweh, the deity of the three Abrahamic religions, isn't used as a character in SFF stories, the main reason is probably what mbakeranalecta suggests: there's no character arc. Omnipotence renders a lot of plot useless. ST:TNG's Q had to have his powers removed or had some ethical obstacle in his way in order to have a story.

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    That was one of forgotten realm's best story-lines. Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 22:09
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    The second paragraph of this answer, and perhaps to a lesser extent the question itself, seems to presuppose the truth of standard/canonical beliefs about this Yahweh. If some/many of those beliefs are false but there still (in-world, at least) is such a being, the subject seems potentially interesting. Perhaps taboo against exploration of this possibility plays a role? Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 0:24
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    Another strong example would be Neil Gaiman's Sandman, which does a rare and marvelous job at depicting a god as incredible, awe-inspiring, and ineffable. Many of the stories indeed present Dream (and the other deities) as caretakers of the universe. At the same time, the deities of Sandman are very human in many ways; that's a lot of the stories' power.
    – Standback
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 7:00
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    @R.. I think that's a large reason. In order to make use of Yahweh as a character, you have to change some of the "givens." A lot of people object to that. Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 12:21

If you mean a singular God as prime mover, it's been done, usually as a gag rather than seriously. (For example, the grad student who is getting a failing grade on his create-a-planet lab assignment; personally I'm particularly fond of Stanislaw Lem's treatment of that in The Star Diaries where it's a matter of incompetent committee work.)

If you mean one of a pantheon of gods, it's been done many times in many ways. Tanith Lee's books about the Lord's of Darkness. The Sandman series of comics, by Neil Gaiman.

And so on, and so on.

So the premise of the question is flawed. The fact that you haven't seen it does not demonstrate that it hasn't been done. It's just harder than average to do well, for the reasons others have provided.

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    "The Sandman series of comics, by Neil Gaiman. " -- or indeed his novel, American Gods.
    – Jules
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 11:41

I have read several stories like this.

In one, humans of the future are able to use sci-fi tech to "read" any moment in the past, and use this to bring back the consciousness of those who have died. The Utopian society they returned to was, effectively, heaven. Mankind is indeed still central in this novel, but it brings about another concept for god: he/it doesn't exist YET, but will, as a culmination of OUR evolution. (Light of Other Days, Stephen Baxter).

In a similar vein is a short story I highly recommend, Asimov's, the Last Question. Oh, I found a link right to it ( it's pretty short: http://multivax.com/last_question.html)

In the Culture novels, by Ian Banks, there are super-intelligent computers, that are able to simulate entire worlds in such detail that the citizens of these simulated worlds are even granted "living-entity" status. This status prevents the more moral of these intelligences from deleting the simulation, (over which they are indeed omniscient and omnipotent), when they are done with it! Of course he also talks about simulations in THOSE simulations, and multiple "levels" of reality. To make the omnicient/God thing even more clear, one of these novels even deals with simulated hells! (Surface Detail, Ian Banks) While most of these stories DO revolve around human-like people, to make it relate-able and interesting, I would not dare to call the Culture "human-centric".

  • Ah, yes, Surface Detail. There was a question over on worldbuilding about realistic afterlifes the other day, and I was trying to remember which book had simulated afterlifes...
    – Jules
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 11:43

The lack of involvement of a God in Science Fiction (as opposed to, say, epic poetry) is really a bit of historical trivia--God was simply a less popular character in the times in which Science Fiction was written.

This phenomenon isn't unique to Science Fiction--not many very popular works have been written in the past few centuries with a benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent viewpoint because it's too difficult to try to resolve the Epicurean Paradox[1] while keeping the usually quite devout masses happy because, surprise! The Epicurean Paradox is paradoxical!

The only answers I've seen continue to crop up are the idea of "optimism", that is, that this is the best God could do (Paradise Lost, Theodicy), but that idea was roundly thrashed by Voltaire, OR that God continues to allow this evil so that humanity may (depending on who you talk to) prove it's worth, build character, etc. in so many words: become stronger (kind of like how working out at the gym hurts, but it saves you future pain).

[1] "If God is omnipotent and omniscient, why is their evil? If he is not omnipotent, then he must be weak (and therefore not godly). If he is not omniscient, then he must be ignorant (and therefore not godly). If he is neither, why call him God? (for he must be not godly)


The answer lies in our ability to define 'God'. Note that while we talk of God, we are personifying an all-pervading aspect; and sometimes the language in which we write or speak becomes insufficient to define 'Him' [note that even in this case, 'Him' indicates that I am referring to 'God' as a male character]. So what is this aspect called 'God'? Ancient languages such as Sanskrit (of which I know a bit) talks of the concept called 'Prana' (how you pronounce it is another consideration) that leads to, and not directly is, the aspect of 'God'; and this implies both human and non-human sub-aspects. So while a story needs to be written, it is important to confine 'God' to the human characteristics (which has been already earlier pointed out), however that would not suffice given that it would seemingly not be sufficient to cover, if not conflict with, the non-human aspects. Hence, any attempt to write a story on 'God' would boil down to a lesser being of being a 'human'.


Indeed, why not?

I suspect that to be because most people don't spend a lot of time actually contemplating God or Gods in a realistic fashion.

After all, individual, group, cultural, and theological assumptions keep getting in the way, not to mention there isn't much profit perceived in such activity by most.

Simply put, most people don't actually have a clue what a real God would actually be like. Even those who can trot out a list of characteristics and may even fervently believe in a God or Gods, seldom actually apply any logic or natural conclusion effect to said characteristics and try to figure out what it means in real terms.

You also have the people who reject it out of hand based on little to no thought, others who decide it doesn't make sense and never dig into it, some who associated it with a poor experience, those who simply like to troll, and on and on.

Very rarely do you have someone who studies it thoughtfully and with an (actual) open mind, regardless of outcome.

I will give one possible example of an excellent viewpoint for a stereotypical deity which would make good writing.

Let's even use the Judaeo/Christian God as our example, as that has already been brought up.

An omniscient, omnipotent being. For the purpose of the example, let's suppose this being conceives the desire to not be alone. However automatons just won't do, that's the same as still being alone with toys.

Therefore, other beings who are agents unto themselves, who have the ability to move, to perceive, to act. Also, inherent in that, the ability to NOT do what the being wants, and a commitment to never interfere with these other being's ability to act and choose for themselves.

Second assumption for the example: purity, cleanliness, and holiness/sacredness are also typified by said being. No impure, unclean, unholy thing can exist or dwell with said being. This concept is also pretty well established, even if the nuts and bolts are debated.

With the ability to act, therefore, these other beings can commit acts which render it impossible to dwell with the original being. Therefore a method of teaching not only the knowledge of how to be pure, but a method to cleanse an impure other being is needed, and a way to teach an appreciation for the value and worth of remaining pure or regaining purity and dwelling with the original being.

And so forth. I'll stop here, but I hope my concept can be extrapolated from even this little. In recap: a God who self-limits by never interfering with the ability of mortals to choose but requires purity of all prospective dwellers, life therefore being some kind of school and test all in one, and the desire for other free agents who are capable of being pure enough to dwell with God of their own free will and choice; and you have the makings of all sorts of interesting stories with conflict and drama, successes and failures.

Omnipotence is limited by the non interference clause, and even with omniscience being able to calculate every possible outcome, the being still cannot act in an interfering way, thus allowing for drama and conflict and challenge even from a divine viewpoint.

  • The storyline you posit doesn't have any challenges, changes, or conflict for the God character, however. If the God character is omniscient and omnipotent and has vowed not to interfere with mortal choices, then, literally, what is there for the God character to do? The God character will know what the mortals will and won't choose. The God character just sits and waits for someone to pass the purity test. Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 11:11
  • Absolutely not. The God character, as you put it could wait, but why? There are many actions that could be taken which will provide opportunities to choose and spread influence without violating the right to choose. The non-interference clause is only a stricture to not violate the ability to choose for themselves, not a "can't do anything", or "can't influence" as so many seem to assume. A God certainly would act to preserve their ability to act. Even if the outcoms are known, if the action still has worth, then it should still be accomplished.
    – nijineko
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 15:18
  • The issue I have is with the God character being omnipotent in regards to time. If the God character does not know what is going to happen in advance, then the story will work, because the outcome is not preordained. But if the outcome is known, then the God character already knows if/when some mortal will pass the test. The God character can only wait until that person shows up, or possibly move a few celestial chess pieces to allow a sequence of events to happen. Predestiny is boring and short-circuits conflict and drama. Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 15:55
  • I think there is a huge difference between knowing how something will turn out and "Predestiny". Though many insist on combining the two, my experiences have shown me that they are in actuality very different. Predestiny is specifically when your choices can have no possible influence or outcome on an upcoming event. That is very different than knowing about something. By the way, omnipotent towards time would the ability to manipulate and control time, I think you meant omniscient instead.
    – nijineko
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 20:05
  • If you know "how something will turn out," then that is "predestiny." I do not see any difference in those definitions. Arthur Pendragon will become King of Camelot. He may enjoy it or not, he may get there with honor or not, it may only last a few days, but it will happen. No choice anyone can make can prevent Arthur from becoming king. If the God character knows Arthur will become king, that's predestiny. There is no suspense or arc for the God character. Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 0:53

With respect to the `no story arc' issue, there is a certain amount of latitude in frustrating the desires of an omnipotent being, as per the following dialogue by the logician Raymond M. Smullyan:

"Is God a Taoist?"

There's further discussion on this in Douglas Hofstadter's book `Metamagical Themas'.

  • There are certainly interesting philosophical questions around the nature of omnipotence. And it is certainly possible to address philosophical questions in fiction. But I don't think these constitute a story arc in conventional terms.
    – user16226
    Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 15:04
  • A philosophical dialog (such as Smulyan's here) can readily be used as a story arc, whether in whole, or in part. For example, Hamlet relies heavily on the tension between opposing philosophical positions. It's clearly harder to make drama work in the presence of omnipotence, but is surely possible with creative effort. Commented Jul 17, 2016 at 15:22

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