What is your take on Deicide as a story telling tool?

#1
I've always wondered this but it hit me when I was helping a friend work on their story. The way I see it is that on the surface it's basically the underdogs going up against the mankind of deal but put to eleven in whatever story world this takes place in. That in of itself I understand and get. But whenever I see one of them that's going on like all the story worlds problems are the god's fault and if they could just kill him everything will be alright I can't help but find it ironic. 

When you look at what the greatest founding nations were built from it's interesting how quick some writers are to put religion as the problem in story. I'd blame most of this on just ignorance of one's roots and how separated religion and state are from each other in most modern societies nowadays. Don't get me wrong, some of my most loved story's use this a lot like Final Fantasy and how it's done is more important than what is done but whenever I see a story that leads up to killing a god most of the time I feel a bit disappointed, like if they'd paid more credence to the topic of a god and added more nuance than god bad (or dumb most time the god is just stupid.) human good as it does in most of them I can't help but feel an opportunity for a better more fleshed out story is being sacrificed for sake of it. 

Is this just me? 

Re: What is your take on Deicide as a story telling tool?

#2
I have a real soft spot for the 'killing god' trope. It functions as a really broad representation of taking control of your own fate, or denouncing hierarchy. Final fantasy is basically entirely made up of this, as you pointed out. In most stories where a god ends up being the big bad, its usually working on a metaphorical level, rather than criticising actual religion. It's a pretty blunt way of going about these ideas, but that's basically how anime works.

If you're writing a story that's knee deep in politics and the nitty gritty of societal cause and effect, then killing a god is probably a bad fit. However, if your story is character driven with themes of personal agency, fate, and all those good final fantasy tropes, then maybe deicide is a decent fit. There are very few things that are as emotionally resonant to those themes as killing god.   

Re: What is your take on Deicide as a story telling tool?

#3
I think deicide is super interesting a tool to use, though I find the usual "The god(s) are evil we want freedom" americanised view rather uninteresting, when the much more sensible and fitting way of it would be to "Kill the god(s) to become the god(s)", with all the ultra-dystopian effects such an act would have on the world. 

Even better if the gods are in themselves personal, and not conceptual, but also only beings who happen to have will and power beyond the grasp of mortals. Challenging these beings and overcoming, replacing them could be the foundation of a very dark and uplifting story about the destiny of man. 

Re: What is your take on Deicide as a story telling tool?

#4

scost Wrote: I have a real soft spot for the 'killing god' trope. It functions as a really broad representation of taking control of your own fate, or denouncing hierarchy. Final fantasy is basically entirely made up of this, as you pointed out. In most stories where a god ends up being the big bad, its usually working on a metaphorical level, rather than criticising actual religion. It's a pretty blunt way of going about these ideas, but that's basically how anime works.

If you're writing a story that's knee deep in politics and the nitty gritty of societal cause and effect, then killing a god is probably a bad fit. However, if your story is character driven with themes of personal agency, fate, and all those good final fantasy tropes, then maybe deicide is a decent fit. There are very few things that are as emotionally resonant to those themes as killing god.
 Yeah been talking about this to a friend earlier and I think I worked out why I asked this. for me, I think it's got a lot to do with my creed and how I see the world. I agree that most stories that do this it's more a metaphorical means to talk about the will of man and their own destiny. The wheel of time does it very well, with the creator being removed from his creation but their creations having to face what is basically the darkened version of the creator to prevent time from unraveling. I think you can have both that and a god who is not killed but simply having a god of all gods who are removed from the fates of man but that does not serve all stories and is more my personal take on it.


Quote:EldriaI think deicide is super interesting a tool to use, though I find the usual "The god(s) are evil we want freedom" americanised view rather uninteresting, when the much more sensible and fitting way of it would be to "Kill the god(s) to become the god(s)", with all the ultra-dystopian effects such an act would have on the world. 

Even better if the gods are in themselves personal, and not conceptual, but also only beings who happen to have will and power beyond the grasp of mortals. Challenging these beings and overcoming, replacing them could be the foundation of a very dark and uplifting story about the destiny of man. 

Yeah, though I did not get into it I think that the American take on the thing that compelled me to write this thread. I hardly watch much media from the west so I had no solid examples but they do tend to make us and their narratives and with gods that do not change. 

I do understand its appeal. It's just my mental gymnastics I have to take to have it work overall in my mind. Talking about this aloud made me realise that better now  lol 

Re: What is your take on Deicide as a story telling tool?

#5
Churchill said the best argument against democracy is a five-minutes argument against an average voter. The mental heuristic we employ to make day-to-day decision is insane. And worse than insane, it shows. It shows how most countries failed to handle the pandemic, recession that somehow cycling every decade or so, industries closing, and things like 'I stopped using plastic straw why the climate change hasn't stopped, yet?' That kind of things.  My point is the modern world we live today is too complex to be comprehended by a single person. Even a group of person. Even experts. Take a look at 2010's market flash crash, where trillion of dollars basically evaporate from stock market and nobody know the exact reason why. Oh sure they have theories, but just that theories. Even though it's entirely computerized, because it so complex and massive it's impossible to pinpoint anything than educated guesses.

The correlation with fiction is this: it's built to entertain. Mainly. Some that are not are categorized literature. Built to open your eyes. However since most are built to entertain, then it must entertain. I imagine it'd be a bit of letdown to most people knowing that killing a big bad doesn't suddenly make everything happily ever after. After that long grueling journey, blood, and sweat, how the prices of corn still rising day by day? Well, apparently offing someone head didn't exactly translate to better supply chain management or making individual agents to stop speculating based on the market condition.

I even would argue that's why game, especially the progressive litrpg kind so popular. You do something good = you got good reward. There's no pesky luck. No invisible hand of the market. No complexities of humans and their emotional damages they suffered simply because they were trying to survive. No nothing. Just you, the world, and your will to march on.

Killing a god, sadly and almost always be, a moment of catharsis. When we as an individual somehow managed to wrought self-agency against the world that's not through anyone fault allayed against us. It give us a big target that we have hope that we could somehow strive on instead of thousands that we don't even know where to start.

And that my friend, sells.

Re: What is your take on Deicide as a story telling tool?

#6
It's an easy enough thing to do, I suppose. A 'god' is something huge, it represents something beyond the normal reach of humanity. Killing a god is, like you said, the ultimate underdog accomplishment. 

That said, I agree that it often feels a little flat. In myth, gods tend to be akin to principles. You can't just kill one and not fundamentally change how the world operates. Like Balder from Norse myth for example - as far as I can recall, he and his wife are the only aesir that die prior to Ragnarök. When he dies, the world is no longer a friendly and innocent place, and it cannot be, because he isn't in it anymore. He's the shining god, the one that represents all the best and most beautiful qualities of human wisdom, and he's gone to the underworld, not to return until the world is reborn. 

Or a god could represent something in the mind of their mortal killer. A mortal that kills a god of evil, by defeating all the evil in his own heart and mind? Hell yeah. That matters. That's a feat much more impressive to me than to simply wave a sword around and stab a guy. 

That's usually not what I see in novels, though. Gods are just dudes with superpowers. 

I suppose it is also a bit of a fault of the English language. It just doesn't have words for most kinds of gods that exist in many other religions. It's so connected to Christianity that there's just 'God' and that's it. In most myth, sure, there are killable 'gods', but they are called by some other kind of name than the unkillable ones. And English just doesn't have a name for that kind of divine existence. I suppose the closest fit to it is "spirit" or something but that also isn't a good fit because a spirit can be so many things..

Re: What is your take on Deicide as a story telling tool?

#7
I think deicide is a very interesting story trope. I love reading about it, and I've toyed with writing it myself. (I will almost certainly revisit it at some point in future writings.) I think that it can have different flavors depending on the culture where it originates.

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE TV SHOW SUPERNATURAL

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SPOILERS BEGIN

For example, I think Supernatural did an excellent job with deicide. There were some pagan gods earlier on that were killed for being unworthy of worship, for being petty, small, and vindictive, and I found their deaths satisfying from a plot perspective. But then you get to the capital-G God and defeating him is more of an epic struggle, like others have said above, against "fate" or "destiny" itself. When you have an all-powerful (or close enough to it) deity working against the heroes, it functions essentially as the main character fighting to do the impossible, and either succeeding against all odds or failing tragically.

Pandemic cutbacks and difficulties aside, I think Supernatural had a great ending by removing the powers from the supposedly all-powerful God, turning him into nothing but a human as the ultimate punishment, more fitting and humiliating than an epic death in battle.

SPOILERS END

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But the problem with stories about overthrowing a god is that often the characters become gods themselves, either by usurping the throne or by the sheer power scaling involved. What are the implications of that? Will the same old hierarchies remain with just a simple changing of hats? Is this just the origin story of a new god that will also be hated and later overthrown? Or do the main characters who become gods promise to do things differently, or dissolve their godhood altogether? Some deicide stories suffer from a lack of foresight, I think.

Re: What is your take on Deicide as a story telling tool?

#8
There might also be some influence from the His Dark Materials series on such books, and that was written at a time when the New Atheism was prevalent. Due to that, there is a polemical element to such depictions of deicide or fighting God, and this might go overboard or feel anachronistic.

However, it is possible to depict killing or struggling against a God figure in a way that is interesting. A few examples of this from media include Votoms' ending, and certain optional, 'forbidden' paths in the Talos Principle game. Both of these portray figures clearly modelled on the Judeo-Christian God (one even says that the main character "just killed God"), but who are mechanical in nature and are destroyed. This perhaps reflects a modern sense of religious disillusion, however it can still be quite a powerful theme. Even Nietzsche's infamous, metaphorical phrase about God's death is still mentioned often, reflecting the power of this kind of imagery. Milton's Satan has also often resonated with readers, and several of his speeches are well-known, because of the Romantic idea of this Satan as an image of resistance against an unjust power. Prometheus was also used for such imagery, including in Shelley's Prometheus Unbound. While it is possible to become too 'preachy,' as it were, about the death of God representing an anti-religious moment, nonetheless speculative fiction often thrives on a sense of scale, and a fight against God or a set of gods is an effective way to convey the cosmic scale of the story. To figures like Percy Shelley, who  had socialistic leanings, it also represented a struggle against the social system and its authorities, rather than just against particular policies or forms of government.

However, it might also be interesting to have deicide stories told from the perspective of a figure like Loki, in the killing of Baldur, rather than the somewhat overused imagery of a hero bravely rising up against the heavens. An open uprising against God is one thing, but a chaotic force disrupting the festivities of the heavens isn't as commonly portrayed. It could even be given a Nietzschean or Promethean turn, if people felt like sticking to more conventional deicide tropes.

Re: What is your take on Deicide as a story telling tool?

#9

razscrivens Wrote: But the problem with stories about overthrowing a god is that often the characters become gods themselves, either by usurping the throne or by the sheer power scaling involved. What are the implications of that? Will the same old hierarchies remain with just a simple changing of hats? Is this just the origin story of a new god that will also be hated and later overthrown? Or do the main characters who become gods promise to do things differently, or dissolve their godhood altogether? Some deicide stories suffer from a lack of foresight, I think.

This is actually the background for my multiverse story. The Thousand Realms were ruled by a god-like race who had representatives in each important realm/reality and who were overthrown millennia ago. While most were neutral or benevolent rulers, there were those who were more monsters and those who go after to destroy. This ended up causing a rebellion to form that destroyed pretty much the entire race and allied species, shattering the balance and portals/paths to other worlds. People would randomly appear (Isekai summons, reincarnations, transmigrations) instead of being able to consciously Travel with ease. There were countless other issues to the point the New Pantheons (the leaders of the rebellion and god slayers) made the Hub world their base and started to consolidate their new power (via game lit mechanics). At first, they overall had well-meaning intentions but over millennia they warped and became what they fought against and even worse in ways. They intend to use Serena as their Herald as a last-ditch effort to connect to their lost mortality...which they are so far gone none of them realize that she is a survivor of the purge of her race sent forward in time.
Most of the people living in the god-controlled areas/realms are believers or faithful to varying degrees, though there are heretics/heathens who refuse to level for progression in other ways.
So there is a lot of potential in these kinds of stories. Serena alone has survivor's guilt but also doesn't hate/despise the new gods.