Michiko Kakutani reviews Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union in The New York Times today. I honestly have little time or interest in the discussion of how genre fiction is or isn’t viewed in the mainstream, or even in the divide between genre and mainstream, but I was struck by how the one thing that Kakutani repeatedly praised is Chabon’s world-building skills. The novel, which I’m reading at the moment, is an alternate history, and a good one. The only possible thing that might set it apart from genre alternate histories (and this is a big maybe) is that the alternate history element of the story is pretty much used only as setting, while the story focusses on other matters. That is to say, the alternate history isn’t the point of the story. At least, not so far. Even allowing for that, it’s hard to see how anything else could win the Sidewise Award. Actually, here’s a question: given that the most successful science fiction novel of 2007 was written by Cormac McCarthy, do we in the genre have the courage to recognise non-genre writers achievements in these areas? Or, do we just not like to see the mainstream playing in our sandpit?