US Stamps

Ursula K. Le Guin 3-ounce rate stamp planned for July 27

Jul 13, 2021, 8 AM

By Michael Baadke

A new stamp in the United States Literary Arts series will honor writer Ursula K. Le Guin. The nondenominated (95¢) 3-ounce rate stamp will be issued nationwide July 27 with a first-day ceremony in Portland, Ore.

Le Guin is known as a pioneering and influential author in the field of speculative fiction. Although often categorized as a science fiction writer, she also wrote in other genres.

As the internet site dedicated to her at notes, her body of work “includes 21 novels, 11 volumes of short stories, 11 volumes of poetry, 13 children’s books, five essay collections, and four works of translations.”

The outdoor first-day ceremony is scheduled to take place rain or shine at 11 a.m. Pacific Time at the Portland Art Museum’s Evan H. Roberts Sculpture Mall, 1119 SW Park Ave.

Event participants will include Joseph Corbett, the chief financial officer and executive vice president of the U.S. Postal Service; and India Downes-Le Guin, the author’s granddaughter.

Additional ceremony details and advance registration for the event can be found on the USPS website.

“The 33rd stamp in the Literary Arts series honors Ursula K. Le Guin (1929–2018), who expanded the scope of literature through novels and short stories that increased critical and popular appreciation of science fiction and fantasy,” the Postal Service said.

“In fiction informed by her lifelong interests in mythology, anthropology, feminism and Taoism, as well as through her wide-ranging translations, essays, poetry, and nonfiction, Le Guin demonstrated that no writer needed to be limited by the boundaries of any genre.”

The new horizontal-format stamp shows a portrait of Le Guin painted by Donato Giancola, based on a 2006 photograph.

The background of the stamp vignette represents a scene from her 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness, “in which an envoy from Earth named Genly Ai escapes from a prison camp across the wintry planet of Gethen with Estraven, a disgraced Gethenian politician,” according to the Postal Service.

“Le Guin’s first major work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness, is considered groundbreaking for its radical investigation of gender roles and its moral and literary complexity,” the Le Guin website said.

USPS art director Antonio Alcala designed the stamp, which is offset-printed and processed in panes of 20 by contract printer Ashton Potter USA Ltd.

Le Guin was born Ursula Kroeber on Oct. 21, 1929, in Berkeley, Calif., where her father was an anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley. Her mother, Theodora Covel Kracaw Kroeber, was a biographer who also authored numerous anthropological texts.

Le Guin studied French and French literature at Radcliffe in Cambridge, Mass., and Columbia University in New York City, earning her master’s degree at Columbia in 1952.

She married Charles Le Guin the following year, and the couple moved to Portland in 1958, where they would raise their three children while Charles taught at Portland State University.

Ursula Le Guin’s first published work was a poem titled Folksong from the Montayna Province, which appeared in Prairie Poet in 1959. It was the first of her works set in the fictional European country of Orsinia.

Many of Le Guin’s works return to previously explored settings, such as the fantasy stories and novels of Earthsea, and the science fiction works that form the Hainish cycle.

Prominent among the latter are the 1967 novel City of Illusions and The Left Hand of Darkness, its 1969 follow-up.

Later works of note include the Earthsea novel The Farthest Shore (1972), which won the 1973 National Book award for children’s books; and The Dispossessed (1974) in the Hainish cycle, a Nebula award winner that year. Her 1985 novel Always Coming Home is set in the distant future and explores the lives of the fictional Kesh people.

Some of her works have been adapted for film and television, including a 1979 film of her 1971 novel The Lathe of Heaven, and a 2004 Sci Fi Channel television presentation titled Legend of Earthsea.

Along with the 1973 National Book award, Le Guin received nine Hugo awards, six Nebula awards and the National Book Foundation medal for distinguished contribution to American letters.

She was named a living legend by the Library of Congress in 2000, and a grand master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2002.

She died at her Portland home at age 88 on Jan. 22, 2018.

The stamp is described by the U.S. Postal Service as the 33rd issue in the Literary Arts series, which is one of the longest current U.S. stamp series. It started more than 40 years ago when the 15¢ John Steinbeck commemorative was issued Feb. 27, 1979 (Scott 1773).

Over the years, the series has honored writers as diverse as William Faulkner in 1987 (Scott 2350), Zora Neale Hurston in 2003 (3748), Mark Twain in 2011 (4545), and Le Guin this year.

Stamps in this series were originally issued for the first-class 1-ounce letter rate, but in 1996, a 23¢ stamp honoring F. Scott Fitzgerald (Scott 3104) was issued fulfilling the additional-ounce rate, the amount paid when a letter exceeds 1 ounce in weight.

The 2009 stamp honoring Richard Wright (4386) was issued with a 61¢ denomination, fulfilling what was then the 2-ounce rate, and in 2014 a 91¢ stamp celebrating Ralph Ellison (4866) paid the then-current 3-ounce rate.

The four Literary Arts stamps issued thereafter, including the upcoming Le Guin stamp, have been nondenominated issues fulfilling the 3-ounce rate.

These nondenominated stamps are valid for the 3-ounce rate regardless of any future rate changes.

The previous stamp in this series, the nondenominated Walt Whitman stamp, was issued Sept. 12, 2019, and remains on sale.

Collectors requesting a free first-day cancel for their own prepared first-day covers will receive a traditional black four-bar first-day-of-issue postmark. A color pictorial first-day cancel prepared by the Postal Service (primarily for its own use on FDCs that it creates and markets) shows a collection of spheres, which the Postal Service describes as evoking “the mystical planets that serve as settings for Le Guin’s fiction.”

The Postal Service has also prepared a black pictorial postmark that incorporates Le Guin’s signature and shows books as they might appear lined up on a shelf. This special event postmark can be used by localities that choose to hold local events celebrating the release of the new stamp. As the July 26 issue of Linn’s was heading to press, there have been no announcements of this postmark being used, but any future announcements of this sort will appear in Linn’s Postmark Pursuit column.

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