The Book of the Week is The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, winner of the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel of 2007, presented at the Hugo ceremony in Denver last Saturday night.
The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a murder mystery set in present-day Alaska, but not Alaska as it really exists today. Rather, the novel assumes that the creation of Israel failed after World War II and many of the Jewish people instead settled in Alaska, dramatically altering the landscape. This is an example of alternate history, long considered a subgenre of science fiction -- for instance, Philip K. Dick won the Hugo Award for best SF novel of 1962 for an alternate history, The Man in the High Castle, in which the Allies lost World War II.
Michael Chabon is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author well respected by the literary mainstream. Mainstream authors commonly resist classification of any of their works as science fiction, for fear of catching sci-fi cooties. Michael Chabon has endeared himself to SF fans by refusing to follow this pattern and instead embracing genre fiction. He has been an advocate of genre fiction, often including science fiction and fantasy stories and authors in anthologies he edited. Chabon was not able to attend the Hugo ceremony Saturday, but he sent an acceptance speech read on his behalf, which contained the crowd-pleasing declaration, "I am a science fiction writer. I say that with great pride."
Next week's Magazine of the Week will be the Hugo winner for Best Novella, won by a Colorado author who has won more Hugo Awards for fiction than any other writer in the history of the genre.