23

I read this book 30 or so years ago. Satan is the sane/stable one, and the "God"/Yahweh/ etc type character is clearly insane.

It wasn't a particularly long story, and I recall it winning an SF award. I can't provide more than that.

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  • In Roger Zelazny's Creatures of Light and Darkness, the creator of the universe was a violent, bestial lunatic. Though I don't remember any Satan character.
    – NomadMaker
    Nov 17, 2020 at 16:28
  • 1
    Creatures of Light and Darkness was using Egyptian gods, there doesn't seem to be anyone that could be identified as a Satan character. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creatures_of_Light_and_Darkness Nov 17, 2020 at 19:01
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    It's been a long some since I read Steven Brust's To Reign in Hell, but I recall that Yahweh was paranoid and indecisive, and Satan was reasonable and respected.
    – LAK
    Nov 17, 2020 at 21:30
  • 8
    I am tempted to suggest closing as not having enough information. There is a whole page each on TV Tropes for God is Evil and Satan is Good. Each one has dozens of literature entries and they don't completely overlap. Nov 17, 2020 at 22:35
  • 5
    I would take a look at Paradise Lost, by John Milton.
    – Lee Mosher
    Nov 18, 2020 at 14:21

10 Answers 10

22

If you're looking for an award-winning story, it might be Ellison's "The Deathbird" (1973) which won the Hugo for Best Novelette in 1974.

Quoting the plot summary from Wikipedia:

Millions of years ago, "The Mad One", also known as Ialdabaoth or God, took over the earth in a sort of cosmic lawsuit. The original creators left behind one last member of their race, Dira, to tell humans the truth about their god, but the dominant traditions throughout the ages denounce Dira as evil. Now, the world is coming to an end and Nathan Stack, the latest incarnation of a long line of humans going back to Lilith’s husband, is revived by Snake (aka Dira) to make the journey to the mountain where God lives. He is the only human capable of confronting him and putting the Earth out of its misery through the summoning of what is referred to as the Deathbird. The story also contains a few side plots, presumably about Nathan Stack or previous reincarnations of him. These stories tell of people that have had to make difficult decisions, allowing loved ones to die. In one such story, his mother wants him to "use the needle" and kill her, ending her pain. This situation is repeated at the end of the story, where Nathan Stack must "use the needle" and end the pain of the planet.

It was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1973 and the entire story can be read at the Internet Archive.

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    not the one i remember, but well worth following up on, for its own merits. thanks!
    – sophocles
    Nov 17, 2020 at 16:36
20

Possibly Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1984. Satan has refused to play the game about a Job-figure again and then he finds out the God is playing it with someone else, he doesn't know who, and goes to help the main character.

It won the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel in 1985. It also was nominated for the Nebula in 1984, and the Hugo in 1985, but didn't win.

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    very intriguing, i will follow up, although not the story i am remembering. but i will go after it on its own merits. thanks!
    – sophocles
    Nov 17, 2020 at 16:38
16

Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake:

.... “God created the heaven and the earth,” the old, long-out-of-print science fiction writer went on. “And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Satan could have done this herself, but she thought it was stupid, action for the sake of action. What was the point? She didn’t say anything at first.

“But Satan began to worry about God when He said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. She had to wonder, ‘What in heck does He think He’s doing? How far does He intend to go, and does He expect me to help Him take care of all this crazy stuff?’ “And then the shit really hit the fan. God made man and woman, beautiful little miniatures of Him and her, and turned them loose to see what might become of them. The Garden of Eden,” said Trout, “might be considered the prototype for the Colosseum and the Roman Games.”

“Satan,” he said, “couldn’t undo anything God had done. She could at least try to make existence for His little toys less painful. She could see what He couldn’t: To be alive was to be either bored or scared stiff. So she filled an apple with all sorts of ideas that might at least relieve the boredom, such as rules for games with cards and dice, and how to fuck, and recipes for beer and wine and whiskey, and pictures of different plants that were smokable, and so on. And instructions on how to make music and sing and dance real crazy, real sexy. And how to spout blasphemy when they stubbed their toes."

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    sounds great! completely new to me, which is a plus on its own rights... more to pursue. thanks
    – sophocles
    Nov 17, 2020 at 16:42
8

Possible from the Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony. All the books deal with personifications of the elements (war, time, nature, fate etc) in a parallel magic world. Book 6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_Love_of_Evil deals with Satan. He is written as a key player trying to do the "right thing" which balances good and hence is evil.

The last book is where "God" is replaced with a new version because he isnt doing his part of the job properly and Satan is doing too well so there is no balance.

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    i don't think so, since i was not much for magic-based stories. i'll check the wikipedia link (thanks) and go from there.
    – sophocles
    Nov 17, 2020 at 16:40
6

A possible, if not likely contender is Norman Spinrads novella "Riding the Torch", in which a progressively deranged god tries to job a spacefaring mankind into submission by destroying all planets potentially fit for settling down.

The caveat is that this "God" (as his antagonist, a rather rational Satan) is actually a character in an entertainment/propaganda program that aims to prepare humanity to accept the fact that they are alone in the universe (but still an easy to remember detail).

The novella was nominated for a Hugo (but did not win).

1
  • i love the imagination in this story, i will look into it. not the one i am thinking of but happy to expand my library!
    – sophocles
    Nov 17, 2020 at 16:41
4

When I read your question this book sprang to mind. I still remember bits of it, but I don't think it matches exactly. One of the details that is still there is that Judas ends up driving a cap in hell and at the end reconciles with Jesus.

Waiting for the Galactic Bus (Snake Oil #1) by Parke Godwin

Imagine two brothers off on an intergalatic Spring Break. When their friends leave them behind on Earth, they've got a few millenia to kill before they'll manage to get back to school. So, as an experiment, mind you, they decide to give evolution a bit of a nudge... And that's when all hell breaks loose... a little more literally than either of them planned...

3
  • It doesn't sound like god is particularly insane though.
    – DavidW
    Nov 17, 2020 at 18:12
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    One of them opted to try to make an ape-like creature more intelligent, giving it the ability to know what it was and be aware of existence and death, etc.... and then he walked away. The other one seeing how miserable the poor early-human was, fixed it behind his brother's back by giving it the ability to create and express itself, and apparently be able to find wonder/joy. Nov 17, 2020 at 18:30
  • the Galactic Bus story sounds cute, more fun than anything else...
    – sophocles
    Nov 18, 2020 at 18:25
4

It could be His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. It's a trilogy, but each of the books is not that big. All three books won multiple awards. It was published in 1995, so it's around the age you're thinking.

The pseudo-Christian religion is actually run by an angel, Metatron. The actual "God" turns out to be dying of old age and dementia.

There is no actual Satan, but the character Lord Asriel could be viewed as the anti-God figure (although he is human).

It's not an obvious fit, sure, but it's worth mentinoing.

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    "I read this book 30 or so years ago."
    – DrMcCleod
    Nov 18, 2020 at 12:09
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    @DrMcCleod I hate to say it but 1995 is getting pretty close to "30 or so" years ago. Close enough to be plausible for a vague memory, at least.
    – Withad
    Nov 18, 2020 at 12:39
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    @DrMcCleod If the OP had been more specific that it was at least 30 years ago, sometime in the 1980s, then I wouldn't have suggested it. But given "30 or so years", 25 years is close to a perfect match.
    – Graham
    Nov 18, 2020 at 12:39
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    @Withad "I hate to say it but 1995 is getting pretty close to "30 or so" years ago." I hate to read it ;)
    – Davy M
    Nov 18, 2020 at 18:16
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    @Withad Good point... how time flies.
    – DrMcCleod
    Nov 18, 2020 at 18:25
2

The earliest theme of this nature I know of is Mark Twain's "Letters From Earth".

http://www.online-literature.com/twain/letters-from-the-earth/2/

"Letters from the Earth" is one of Mark Twain's final assaults on the stupidity and hypocrisy of man and an apparently capricious and malevolent God. It lacks his customary humor and seems to be written in a tone of outrage. Satan goes to the earth and sends these letters to his friends, the archangels Gabriel and Michael. What he finds is a complete disconnect between professed belief and action. Twain turns accepted doctrines and smug platitudes on their heads to bolster his assertions.

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  • thanks, i will look into that on its own merits. appreciate
    – sophocles
    Nov 19, 2020 at 19:17
2

If it was a short novel, Brust's To Reign in Hell would seem close, albeit Yahweh isn't really insane, he just becomes an egotistical dick over the course of the story as he starts buying into his own claim of godhood. Satan is generally the calm, reasonable one.

1
  • Thanks - it is now on my library wait-list. not certain, but this couldbe the thing i am remembering.
    – sophocles
    Nov 21, 2020 at 22:22
0

There's a short story by Keith Laumer where Satan is a reasonable and actually nice person; Yahweh doesn't appear in the story, but it's explained that Hell got its bad reputation just due to negative publicity from Yahweh and his followers. Hell is actually a pretty nice place full of interesting people, and it's implied that Heaven is a stuffy place populated by what we might now call "Karens".

I don't think it could be the one you want, because it doesn't really depict Yahweh as insane; but I urge you to look it up. Story title: "The Devil you Don't", published now in The Lighter Side by Baen Books. Ebook edition is available.

https://www.baen.com/Chapters/0743435370/0743435370__c_.htm

2
  • Steve, you're right, it's not the story i was seeking, but sounds like fun on its own
    – sophocles
    Nov 19, 2020 at 19:16
  • Many thanks - i will definitely look into this.
    – sophocles
    Nov 21, 2020 at 22:22

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