A miscellaneous group of zines this time, several with quarterly or irregular schedules.
Kaleidotrope, Autumn 2015
The stories here this time are mostly fantasy, although some show initial signs of science-fictionality.
“Rites of Passage” by Julia August
A sequel to previous work featuring a potent but naive pseudo-Hellenic witch with the prosaic name of Ann. Here, Ann has to wait til the second act to come onstage, while the first scene is occupied with an ambitious warlord intent on conquering all the desert tribes. Takeleyel seeks advice from a sort of ifrit who advises her to make a new war drum out of a dragon’s hide. She believes the foreign witch will help her kill the dragon.
I like this one rather more than the previous story, largely because this setting is a more credible secondary world, not an obviously-renamed historical place and people, such as “Dorikan” for Ann. There is, however, much less sense of Ann’s latent power, which she seems to regret after the disaster in pseudo-Firenze. There’s tension between her and Takaleyel the warlord, who dominates the opening. It’s unclear at first what sort of person she is, until she tells Ann, “‘There’s one dragon left in the southern desert. It lives in the mountains not far from here. I went there once, when I was younger. It’s been there longer than anyone can remember. It likes talking to people. The kel Hàhlé say it gives them more advice than they need.’” The dragon, on the other hand, is a fine fellow, leaving Ann with the problem of fulfilling her promise to the warlord.
The series appears to be a travelogue through exotic fantastic lands, during which Ann will presumably master her power and all the ill-intentioned persons intent on exploiting it. The fantastic lands here have interest; I like the dragon and the ifrit-like being, and what we see of Takaleyel’s people suggests they’re interesting as well.
“Dance of the Splintered Hands” by Henry Szabranski
A future fantasy world in which orbiting satellites have the power of gods, ruling the world and occasionally warring with one another. Many of their functions are performed by “hands”, remote-controlled robotic entities that sometimes take the form of human hands but more often functional shapes. Razay discovers a nest of hands has emerged near his village and are busily engaged on a construction project.
Strands of glassy material formed the outer skin of the dome, an open lattice of hexagonal sections. Basket-like frames meshed within each other, offset, obscuring the interior. The scale of the building was immense. Even at this distance, perhaps a mile away, I could see spider-like shapes crawling over its surface.
Coming closer to it, he and the village’s veteran soldier discover that these hands bear the mark of no god; they’re rogues, and the ruling gods will certainly obliterate them. But Razay is certain that his lover Katia is inside the dome and needs him to save her before disaster smites.
The gods/hands make for a promising premise that deserves a bit more than a love story.
“Alviss the Dwarf” by David A Hewitt
Retold Norse myth, the poem Alvissmal, here as narrated by Loki. Good, though familiar, use of this material, but it doesn’t deviate from the original.
“There are Rules” by William Stiteler
While readers might assume at first that this one is science fiction, given that it’s set on an alien world and people are using online data readers, in fact it’s a world haunted by arcane perils, any of which might kill the unwary. There are rules that generally guarantee survival if followed scrupulously, but these are only discovered through trial and error. Davyd Grimshaw failed to master the rules, but he turns out to be skilled at managing a couple of rather hapless, though talented, young savants.
Humor, in unusual circumstances.
“To Claim a Piece of Sky” by Crystal Lynn Hilbert
A brutal war is underway, employing genetically-engineered weapons among other nastiness. Sybil is one such weapon, bred in a lab, the only survivor of her batch. She’s a protean creature, capable of assuming many different forms, but it’s not clear what exactly she does in the war, aside from tracking down certain enemies and traitors. She hates what she’s made to do and witness, being in fact a person who needs affection, clinging to small scraps of comfort like a sky-blue piece of cloth from a residence they burned, but there seems to be no way out. Tracking down others who tried to find a way out is her specialty.
The longest and most interesting piece in the issue, and the only one unequivocally science fiction, but the author goes rather overboard piling gratuitous cruelties onto Sybil, and in the prose:
A rotary fan gnashed teeth in the ceiling, sucking the green mist of Interval away into some distant chamber. The room shuddered from the precipice of unreality into life again. Feeling returned to the borders of the body on needled feet. Color heaved itself across the room, army-issue green seeping into the cave of blankets pressed against her cheek.
Because our point of view is Sybil’s, we know next to nothing about the war or the politics behind it. Nor do we find an explanation for such oddities as Sybil’s guards, who all seem to be wearing impractical, unmilitary shoes with stiletto heels. This probably means something, but we aren’t told what.
Apex Magazine, October 2015
More changes at this online zine, as the material in each monthly issue will now be divided and posted on a weekly basis. According to the editorial, the four original stories here share a theme of “protection”, which is at least true of the Martine story. It’s not an impressive lot.
“When the Fall Is All That’s Left” by Arkady Martine
Pursued by enemies unknown to the readers, Iris and her ship Gabriele evade them by flying though a star, which is a mixed success, as radiation and heat have been fatal in different ways to both, although Gabriele still has her propulsion. They now have only minutes before Iris dies and leaves Gabriele “without telemetry and watching over your corpse while my orbit degrades”. The two were friends before Gabriele was chosen to be a shipmind, and their time together in space has only strengthened their bond.
I’m dubious about the premise regarding Gabriele, as well as the opening line in which “gravity had ended”. Newton’s law hasn’t been repealed, it’s only that Gabriele’s artificial gravity is no longer functional, but the line is misleading, and I doubt that a scientist, as Gabriele used to be, would make such a mistake.
“All Things to All People” by D K Thompson
The narrator here suffers under an odd sort of curse that requires him to help people—whatever they need, not necessarily protection. After each helpful encounter, a new tattoo appears on his skin; when there is no more room for another, the accumulated ink will kill him. The very short piece ends ambiguously—unfulfillingly so.
“Super Duper Fly” by Maurice Broaddus
Satire. The central character comes to us from The Council of Negro Stereotypes. The other Stereotypes [The Tom, The Mammy, etc] aren’t happy with The Magical Negro, who’s been stepping outside the limits of his role. They warn him, “Know your place.”
Just in case readers don’t Get It, the author opens with an essay on the history and uses of the trope. As humor, it’s pretty obvious, even without the essay. Although, interestingly, the text engages in some metafictional self-criticism on this account, as the Stereotypes point out that the Magical Negro’s various character names are overly obvious, and the plot elements unconnected.
“Me and Jasper, Down by the Meth Shack” by Aaron Saylor
Redneck horror. Jasper calls the narrator Boo, and the two of them are armed and waiting for that scumbag Pookie by the meth shack.
He ain’t somebody you much care to have for a visit. He’s short and wirey, with jail tattoos all over both arms. Least he calls ‘em tattoos, but really they’re just half-assed scrawlins of knives and barbed wire and lady cartoon characters with their titties flopped out. His long hair mostly covers his face, and even though you can’t see his eyes, you still know they’re rheumy and half glazed over, barely able to look straight ahead, much less right at you.
Boo thinks we can’t figure out why they’re there, but it’s not all that hard.
This is classic horror, with the most individual aspect being the backwoods color and voice. I’d call it revenge as much as protection.
Unlikely Story, October 2015
Of all the publications I regularly follow, this ezine usually fills me with heightened anticipation when a new issue comes out. This time, it’s under the title The Journal of Unlikely Academia, a subject matter particularly attractive to me, with eight stories, all of full length and generally high quality. So what’s the problem? The Unlikelyzine seems to have lost much of its distinctive flavor, the unique, audacious weirdness epitomized in the very notion of devoting a whole publication to bug stories—to strange, fabulist bug stories at that. The stories here are more conventional, following the usual conventions of contemporary speculative fiction. I wouldn’t have been surprised to discover most of them in any of today’s online venues. Where’s all the weirdness going? The uniqueness?
“Follow Me Down” by Nicolette Barischoff
Ramona was a student midwife in the New York College of Theogony and Preternatural Obstetrics when Kora, fathered by an incubus, was born in traumatic circumstances.
The woman’s back formed a perfect arch of terror and pain with every contraction, as she pulled away instead of pushed. And every time a contraction left her, she fell back to trying to wriggle out of the bed — as though she could leave behind the thing emerging from her body — making lakes of inky amniotic fluid on the floor as she collapsed, and was dragged back.
Unsurprisingly, but to her annoyance, the newborn demonic spawn imprinted on Ramona. Years later, she has classes to teach, grant proposals to write, a career to get off the ground, where it seems to be spending too much time, given that she’s still a TA. She doesn’t need a seven-year-old fiendish distraction who steals pages out of books in the library’s collection.
The name of the college is well in the unlikely tradition, given that it seems to have a plague of demi-divine hybrids on its hands. But the primary story is Ramona’s, who badly wants to carve out a career of her own. I can sympathize with her, indeed I have to wonder if a male student would be so quickly relegated to the status of nanny. But the story concludes with it all for the best, and Ramona achieving self-realization in her assigned role.
“Minotaur: An Analysis of the Species” by Sean Robinson
Results of a survey, the subject in this case being a species, not a singular being.
Though the socio-economic, racial, and geographic origins may be varied and are, according to the study conducted, as varied as the variables at play, in the end, like the modern cuckoo, the minotaur is a brood parasite (possibly symbiote) and is, in the end, always raised by something entirely foreign to its native parents’ species.
Good to see some pseudo-scholarship in this issue. What I find most interesting here is the variety of labyrinths, especially the one in the stacks of a university library. Indeed, there’s a strong unlikely-library subtheme going on in the issue.
“The Librarian’s Dilemma” by E Saxey
Jas is a mere lowly technician, currently assigned to venerable St Simons to update the catalogue system of the Harrod Collection, but his ambition is to be a real librarian. He sees his advanced techniques as a way to reconcile the eternal conflict in the heart of a librarian: “the desire to preserve a text, and the desire to make it available.” The Collection’s librarian, however, is entirely in the service of preservation—indeed, of restriction.
I will invest in any technology that means I know where my books are.” Tapping her desktop with a bloodless fingernail. “And which means they cannot be destroyed. Anything that makes it harder to steal them, to photograph them, to gain access to them without my knowledge — I want that.”
Of course the Collection is an unlikely library, and the librarian does have her reasons, as we eventually learn. But this is Jas’s story, and he’s an engaging, naive character. Not only does he learn the library’s reasons, he learns his own.
I’m particularly fond of the cataloging and scanning techniques Jas employs, which seem quite likely indeed.
“The Dauphin’s Metaphysics” by Eric Schwitzgebel
Unlikely philosophy. The Dauphin Jisun Fei suffers from a hereditary disease that is claiming his mother and complicating the matter of the succession to the throne. He’s seized on a notion inspired by the lectures of Professor Fu Hao on the theories of mind and identity, that it would be possible to transfer his own mind to a new body that could inherit the kingdom and prevent civil war. In this, supported by the king, he generously endows a new institute with Fu as the director, its purpose to prove whether mind replication is possible, using himself as the experimental subject. Fu, while disapproving, can hardly refuse either the project or the promotion, which would otherwise be unlikely in this sexist Academy.
The issue here is a fundamental one in philosophy, it being a basic paradox that the mind itself doesn’t know what it is. In this matter, Fu is a radical, an atheist who denies the existence of the soul and thus posits that the mind must have a material basis, leading Fei to conclude
“Memory, then, is also just a configuration of matter, right? The same configuration, the same pattern, can be transferred from one brain to another. The prince can possess the body of the cobbler, no miraculous soul-transfer required.”
To which Fu’s antagonist, Professor Zeng, argues
“It should be possible to produce a profusion of princes who share as much identity as any materialist can regard as worthwhile. In denying the unique Elemental identity of each individual soul, your materialism converts human individuals into ordinary, reproducible stuff — as reproducible as a metalworker’s lawn-balls. This is plainly too preposterous to tolerate.”
To me, the interesting question is: how could anyone tell if a replicant is an identical reproduction of an original? The replicant himself wouldn’t know, having no independent access to the original’s mind. The original might, but in this case he’s dead, making the project one of reincarnation, not just replication. The most this experiment could produce would be a replicant who appears, to external observers, to remember the same events as the original. This, however, is apparently considered sufficient for the purpose of succession to the throne, even for those such as Fu who acknowledge it as an open deception.
The piece is not only philosophy, it’s clearly science fiction, a subject with which the author is familiar, citing such familiar tropes as mind/memory downloads and brain transplants. But here he’s chosen a less-advanced setting, in which the primary means of transmitting memories is hypnosis. As long as he lives, Fei meticulously documents every thought, every event of his life to be transferred into the supposedly blank and plastic mind of a newborn child. The process makes me wonder if the author is familiar with Cyteen, which employs much the same method, using more advanced technology and cloned bodies.
One unexpected element here is Fei’s growing love for Fu Hao. The story, in fact, is always Fu’s. We follow her from the genesis of the project, through the alteration of her views, to her final resolution—with glimpses back to the person she once was before becoming to the Academy to upset the place. It becomes one of the few cases where I don’t have to ask the question: to whom is the narrator telling this tale? We already know the answer. Fu is a strong character, and I like her essential skepticism, tempered with undogmatic pragmatism.
Speculative fiction and philosophy have more in common than many people might suppose, largely because contemporary philosophy isn’t widely known. Issues of mind, identity and memory [the notion of the brain in the vat, for example] have long been shared by both disciplines [if we can consider SF to be disciplined]. I’m quite happy to have found this story here.
“Soteriology and Stephen Greenwood” by Julia August
Now this is the sort of way-out-there piece that I look forward to seeing in the unlikely venue. We have imaginary Latin texts, palimpsests even, an actual lost manuscript by Cicero, and a newly-imagined arcane discipline [soter being the Greek for “savior”]. It’s even a hyperfiction, studded with links that readers may wish they could follow. It’s an epistolary text, told largely in a succession of emails, the form that epistles these days generally take.
Greenwood is a distinguished medievalist, an expert in the manuscript known as the Codex Lucis, written by the 9th century Saint Lucia Lucilla, of which one section, known as the Prophecy, has long been missing. Out of nowhere comes an email from a woman named Cara Falco, saying she has come into possession of a fragment of the Prophecy and wishing his aid with the translation. Greenwood agrees, in exchange for permission to publish the fragment, which brings him considerable fame and controversy among his dubious and jealous peers.
. . . there is no evidence that the fragment was illegally acquired, but no one so far has offered any proof that it was obtained through legal and transparent channels either. It is incumbent on Dr. Greenwood to rectify this situation as soon as possible. Ownership, provenance and object history all need to be clarified, preferably with full documentation on all counts.
In the meantime, barely noticed while the academic frenzy is underway, Cara continues with her own mission, which results in no fame whatsoever, as is intended by her covert group, busy robbing museums.
What I love about this one is the completeness of it, the authenticity of the details: listserves and journals that really ought to exist, academic disputes over a Latin translation, and of course the backbiting that always accompanies such controversies. Oh, and the humor.
“And Other Definitions of Family” by Abra Staffin-Wiebe
Definitely unlikely but not really academic. May was trained as a xeno-anthropologist, but she discovered she could make a lot more money hiring out for sex work with the various aliens on Nueva Nova station. What she doesn’t expect is the alien male who wants her to carry his offspring in her womb, now that his mate has died. But the money is good, and she stands to learn a great deal about the reproduction of this species, and its related customs. If she survives. The Bitocktee reproductive customs tend to be lethal.
The third week, civility wore thin. Red2 reverted to the Bitocktee standard of rudeness to other life-forms. The alien inside May moved frequently, with flutterings and hard thumps that sometimes caused sharp pain. She tried not to imagine the wings and talons inside her, and failed.
Light skiffy stuff with a humorous bent.
“Candidate 45, Pensri Suesat” by Pear Nuallak
Art school, not really academia, nor very unlikely. Pensri has earned a scholarship there, first in the family to achieve higher education, with the concomitant duty not to let everyone down by failing. All the signs suggest Pensri has talent, but the tutors at the school are critical—one in particular.
They saw the mark and instantly felt ashamed. Dry-mouthed with shock, Pensri read the tutor’s comments and felt sure nothing would be right again. They’d failed their mother, sisters, aunties, and cousins. The rice crop would instantly wither, disappointed. The water buffalo in the family herd would snort in disgust upon hearing the news.
Typically in such stories, the overcritical teacher turns out to be a figure of wisdom and benevolence, the criticism actually to the student’s benefit. That’s not what’s going on here, however. The apparently hostile, prejudiced tutor turns out to be an actual hostile, prejudiced, racist, colonialist tutor, described by Pensri as having “mousy centre-parted hair, how it opened onto a face which resembled a stretch of clean, raw pork rind.” Which may exhibit some hostility and prejudice on Pensri’s part.
The setting is important in understanding this work. It appears to be a fantasy version of Thailand where mythical figures are more present than they seem to be in our own world, and may take different forms. Pensri’s work draws on this Jamathewi mythic material, especially the angelic thewada, which Pensri portrays as androgynous—in large part a matter of identification. The tutor Miss Emily objects to such a portrayal as “poor grasp of ideas resulting in imbalanced, inauthentic response.” Not coincidentally, Miss Emily is of foreign origin, and her Angrit family founded the school; she has strong notions that the Jamathewi native people are prone to be childishly wayward—a racial trait that she intends to stamp out in her students. In short, she epitomizes the wrongs of colonialism. Students attend the school because of its prestige, but everyone seems to despise Miss Emily.
Pensri is a complex central character—sometimes strong and confident, as when negotiating the fee for a commission, at other times diffident and insecure. But the story’s positive outcome owes a lot to divine intervention. The problem is the weight of Agenda that directs events, in which we know what side the angels will take—the side with which the author identifies.
“The Shapes of Us, Translucent to Your Eye” by Rose Lemberg
Definitely academic but not really unlikely. Warda is fortunate. Although she’s knows they whisper about her as a “diversity hire” she manages to achieve tenure while many of her cohort are stuck in the eternal adjunct track. Warda likes teaching, is good at it, but the senior faculty keep saying, “Publish, publish.” And tuition is always rising, while the administration rants about increasing the enrollment—”enrollments are dollars.” They warn her not to allow students to audit without paying tuition, but she can’t bring herself to turn them away, and gradually her classes fill with unenrolled ghost students, their bodies blurring at the edges, becoming transparent.
She knows she is teaching too many courses again this spring, that she won’t have time to write; she knows it’s not right to abandon her scholarship, that it’s the answer that’s always, always given by those who care, which is why those who care are so rarely in power.
Other than the ghosting of the students, an effective metaphor, there’s little that’s speculative here, let alone unlikely. Only depressing, because of the truth in it.
On Spec, Spring 2015
A special 100th anniversary issue with a “punk” theme, delayed owing to circumstances. This isn’t wholly unfortunate, as several of the five stories here turn out to have a dark sensibility quite suited to the late October reading season.
“Roundheels” by Carrie Naughton
Tracy plays with her band in bars, goes to bed with the customers, likes booze, cigarettes and [ptooi!] Cheeze-Its, and doesn’t apologize of any of it. Also, she doesn’t take any shit from ghosts.
“Hi there,” Tracy said to the guy, who towered over her by a foot, and who smelled like the grave.
I like Tracy. And while urban fantasy isn’t much my thing, more of this sort could change my mind.
“Serenade on Lake Ontario” by Mike Rimar
Alternate history. During US Prohibition, Tony had done well shipping whiskey to Chicago, but things have changed now that the Nazis have taken over Canada and started arresting the Jews, including Tony’s wife. Now he’s using his smuggling talents to ship uranium south, where the US is making some kind of secret weapon. Trouble is, there’s a rat in his organization.
I’m not buying the AH premise, but the main thing here is the action and the period flavor.
Reaching under the bench seat, Tony found the lever he’d been looking for and yanked hard. The trunk lid flipped over back-to-front providing a protective shield. Bullets pinged harmlessly off the reinforced metal skin as Tony, kneeling on the leather seat, reach down into the trunk and pulled. A gun mount arose easily on well-oiled accordion joints and locked into place.
“Relocation” by Rich Larson
Urban fantasy again. Faeries aren’t integrated totally smoothly into human society, and from time to time they still swap human babies for changelings.
“But it’s an ingrained behavior, like migrating birds, and every so often the poor little buggers just can’t help themselves. Especially around solstice.”
Dominique works for the agency tasked with retrieving and relocating the babies. She’s a kind of a rogue in the organization, and she’s not really happy with her temporary [she hopes] new partner, all-too-strict with the dress code.
Essentially, this is a standard veteran cop/new partner story, with satisfying action and a not quite unexpected twist.
“The Secret Dragon of Imperial Power” by Claude Lalumière
Part of a series by the author featuring the fictitious Mediterranean city Venera, for which I read Venice. There’s a definite steamy flavor to this, with technology far in advance of our own 16th century, including, of course, airships, as well as hovercars and autopigeons for sending covert messages. These are employed by our narrator, Karim Khalil, a Veneran agent of Turkish origin now spying out Ming dynasty China during the reign of the decadent Zhengde Emperor.
There’s a certain amount of reality in the historical background. This emperor was indeed feckless, spendthrift, and irresponsible; he was indeed threatened by numerous rebellions and assassination attempts. But the author portrays this milieu as a wuxia cartoon that makes a mockery of the history.
“Shriek Season” by Wes Smiderle
Not spooks but winds, in a future when the world’s population is plagued by storms and other sorts of afflictions undoubtedly caused by global climate change. Those who can afford it live in magnetic houses that can be flown away to safety ahead of an approaching front.
As my older brother Iffy used to say, when bad weather hits, there isn’t much you can do except shed weight, uproot and float your mag-rez the hell out of the area lickety-split.
Teenaged Jay has a knack for knowing when bad weather is on its way, but his M and D don’t always listen. And his M and D have some odd notions about shedding weight.
This is one that rests on the edge of dark and humor, with occupational family names like Springfastener and Pigkisser, but not to the point where we can’t appreciate the dire conditions and worry about Jay, who turns out to be a bit smarter than he sounds.
Strange Horizons, October 2015
In the midst of an annual pledge drive, the zine is posting bonus offerings this month, including a story by Kelly Link. There’s a theme of the fate of children.
“Broken-winged Love” by Naru Dames Sundar
This short piece is a story in the form of a prose poem about a dragon whose egg hatches impaired. The refrain of each paragraph/verse is “I didn’t love my baby”, but of course we can see for ourselves how she does, as the title tells us.
I didn’t love my baby when I held him with my claws, sweeping west to empty aeries, leaving the taunts of other hens far behind. I found one, a pearl amidst the ocean, a strip of beach and raised rock like some dead lizard of old. Here my child danced, free from comparisons. Here lay I, sundered from the sky, ever watchful of my growing gold-eyed boy.
“Let’s Tell Stories of the Deaths of Children” by Margaret Ronald
A reimagining of Lilith, immortal, unlike her ex and replacement but also, apparently and despite legend, eternally barren. Lilith has no high opinion of the legends concerning her, but then it’s been quite a while, and truth degrades. The legends seem to be silent on the subject of her abducting children, and it’s also been quite a while, “not in decades, nearly a century, maybe more.” But these days she can’t avoid the news and all the stories of lost, murdered children, and they’re likely to set her off again.
Lot of echoes here, such as the legend of La Llorona and other figures of women who’ve lost or been denied children. But I also think Lilith is exhibiting the symptoms of an addict, constantly haunted by the urge to relapse. Like many addicts, she’s lying to herself.
“The Game of Smash and Recovery” by Kelly Link
The story is Anat’s, told in a voice with the brevity and simplicity of sentences that usually designates the point of view of a young child. As is often the case with a young child, Anat isn’t entirely sure what’s going on in her life, but she’s fairly confident that everything will be revealed at the proper time, when she’s old enough. While she waits, while she plays games with her caretaker brother Oscar, readers try to figure out what the situation really is. It would seem that Anat and Oscar live alone [except for the vampires and drones] in a habitat orbiting a uninhabited world they call Home. Their parents have left Anat in Oscar’s charge, but eventually they will return and everything will be fine. In this sort of story, we tend to make assumptions; we tend to assume, for example, that Anat is a human girlchild. But assumptions can be misleading, and that’s the kind of story this is, in which we have to pick out the correct path through the field of strewn evidence that points, especially at first, in a direction meant to mislead.
Among the various themes the story is exploring, one is sentiment—emotional attachment—as announced by the opening lines: “If there’s one thing Anat knows, it’s this. She loves Oscar her brother, and her brother Oscar loves her.” But it’s the child Anat saying this. Perhaps things will change. Perhaps things aren’t quite as they seem. From time to time it seems that Oscar is unhappy. Perhaps he worries that their parents may never return as promised. Perhaps he resents being left alone to raise a younger sibling. Anat seems to be concerned about these possibilities, concerned for her brother’s sake, because she loves him. But perhaps things will change, and then, what will happen to love?
Intriguing possibilities here. The story presents the sort of revelation that requires readers to look with new eyes at what characters have said and done, after things change. But the author has prepared us for it, just as the characters have been prepared.
“Artemis, with Wildflowers” by Ani King
A very short piece reflecting on the myth of the hunters Orion and Artemis, and jealousy. There were a lot of variations on the story even back in the day, but the most common denominator of such tales was jealousy of humans who dared to challenge the gods or attempt to rise to their level or aspire to their sister’s virginity. In fact, they didn’t need an excuse.
The story makes this point, suggesting that whatever course events might take, in any setting or circumstance, the outcome would be the same. It’s unusual in shifting to different colors in the text, primarily for emphasis and point of view.
The substitution in some lines of a rifle for Artemis’s bow works well in universalizing the myth, but the reference to her wearing a toga is just wrong.