Making Murder Sound Respectable
Sea Lion Press
This is a short but highly intriguing piece of counter-factual fiction, once again published by the impressive Sea Lion Press. Like the best kind of counter-factual fiction, Making Murder Sound Respectable presents a piece of plausible alternative history, gives just enough detail to draw in the reader and make them interested in the world being portrayed, and then presents the reader with some difficult questions to answer. Framed by the narrative of a group of first-time student voters watching a (distinctly different version of) the BBC’s Election Night Broadcast, Mumby asks what Britain, and the wider world, would look like if there had been no rise of the Soviet and Nazi dictatorships in Russia and Germany; if the Bolsheviks had been stymied at the very beginning of the Russian Revolution in 1917 and failed, and if Hitler and the Nazi Party had never quite got the votes they needed in 1933, being effectively sidelined by conservative elements in the German government.
In a world that did not see the rise (and eventual fall) of the two greatest dictatorships of the 20th Century, and which instead continued along the line of the tense and often fractured and divided politics of the 1920s and 1930s, what does the present-day look like? Mumby portrays a country sharply divided down political lines, where street-fighting between the militant arms of each political party are frighteningly common and even normalised, and where numerous political parties with vastly differing ideologies attempt to create short-lived coalitions. The details that the author provides of the state of British politics are interesting, including a minor but renewed Home Rule Party that has become federalised, and a British Union of Fascists that has become a more ‘moderate’ fascist party in an attempt to appeal to voters, but perhaps the most thought-provoking part of Making Murder Sound Respectable is the state of Europe at the time of the British elections.
There are hints of a non-Communist Russian dictatorship, as well as a European-wide Workers International which appears to have a significant amount of influence. However, by far the most original idea is Mumby’s portrayal of a Germany dominated by a ‘pure’ fascist party that looks down disdainfully at the British Unionist party that has allegedly betrayed the principles of its founding father, Oswald Mosely. This is a Germany that has conducted its own Cold War-type situation with Russia for decades, and which instead of implementing the Holocaust has forced its Jewish citizens into a series of Jewish-only cities, which have eventually formed their own voting bloc within the country. This is thought-provoking stuff, and although the author provides an afterword-style summary of the world of Making Murder Sound Respectable, including the Points of Divergence, I was extremely surprised that the story ended when it did – it essentially acts as the opening chapter in a novel which has yet to be written. I for one hope that it is one day written, as I think there is a huge amount of potential in the world that Mumby has built in this short story.