I'm looking for a short story, probably from the mid '60s to mid '70s, in which two candidates, possibly senators running for president, undergo a public test of how well they perform as leaders by acting in the role of all-powerful deities to a population of tiny, perhaps microscopic, synthetic beings.

There is a bloody, brutal conflict going on in the synthetic world, analogous perhaps to that between the early Christians and Romans. One of the human contestant-gods refuses to directly intervene to prevent the execution of a "prophet", who believes god exists, but is having you might say a hard time convincing others.

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    Gah! I remember this one, I just can't remember the name! If I recall, the 'God' does nothing at all (other than communicating with his Prophet) until the FINAL moment, when as his Prophet lies dying, a single twitch of a dial bursts the head of his prophets enemy in response the Prophet's request; the single, well timed miracle swaying everyone with almost zero expenditure of power & resources.
    – K-H-W
    May 2, 2013 at 1:41
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    I THINK the prophet made a pistol shape with his thumb and forefinger, said 'Bang' and the enemy died by 'God's hand. That sound familiar?
    – K-H-W
    May 2, 2013 at 13:27
  • Yes, exactly! That was the story's finale, (followed by some applause from the human audience). A very graphic visual there at the end, which has stayed with me for decades.
    – rgolden
    May 2, 2013 at 18:33
  • If it helps track it down, I remember he had a woman helping him, basically taking control (following his lead) when he had to stop, sleep, etc. At one point, with his followers being decimated there was speculation that she would simply take over, rather than let things get too bad.
    – K-H-W
    May 2, 2013 at 23:37
  • I've been scouring the internet looking for this because it seems interesting. There seems to be one conflicting detail in the question and comments that would help me in looking for this: were there actually people vying for political office, or was it only one guy?
    – SocioMatt
    May 10, 2013 at 20:49

1 Answer 1


I outsourced this question to the PrintSF Sub-Reddit, the user mage2k suggested The Short Ones by Raymond E Banks he read from the Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 17 (1955) short story collection :

I'm fairly certain I remember reading that in a short story collection when I was a kid, possibly edited by Asimiov, but I can't remember anything else.

Edit: Ah-hah! Here is the collection I was thinking of. Could it have been one of those? Perhaps The Short Ones by Raymond E Banks?

This was confirmed by user gonzoforpresident :

I just skimmed a copy of The Short Ones and that has to be it. It is precisely what OP describes.

  • Thank you to everyone who contributed and searched! This is probably the right story, although I'm surprised at its vintage, since I would have been only 3 when it was written. I should receive a copy of the anthology in a day or two, and will confirm right away if that's it.
    – rgolden
    May 15, 2013 at 20:53
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    Yes - The Short Ones was the story. I had forgotten various details, including the stereotyped gender roles of both the god-humans and the short one's themselves, and the potentially lethal feedback hazard from the short ones, back to their god, if too many died under his watch. The finale still holds up after all these years, for me.
    – rgolden
    May 17, 2013 at 18:40

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