Ursula Le Guin & Her Elusive Hugo!

It all began with a hot tip from Perry Barr of Ace Boops.

Goodbye Ursula. The heavens above were never so full that we won’t miss your bright particular star.

And now for my favourite Ursula Le Guin letter, one which highlights the two things I like best in an author, a lack of pretentiousness and a sense of humour. The following letter appeared in Philosophical Gas #2, published by John Bangsund in October 1970. The Hugo in question was awarded to Ursula for The Left Hand of Darkness at Heicon ’70, the worldcon held in Heidelberg, Germany in August of 1970. I assume the rocket was accepted on Ursula’s behalf by Terry Carr of Ace Books (which would explain a lot). Other than that I don’t think there is anything I can add except I hope the following makes you smile, at least for a moment:

‘We were over in our cabin in the Coast Range on Slick Rock Creek, well insulated from Civilisation by a lot of fir trees and bears and stuff, and it was about 8 a.m. and there was a knock on the door. Mr Smith from up the road. Mr Smith has a telephone, and he had a message for us – from our daughter, he thought they said. As our eldest daughter is 13 and was reading Mad Magazine right in the loft at the time, we were confused, but staggered up through the bears and firs and called the number he had taken down. It was Virginia Kidd in Pennsylvania, who had forgotten the 3-hour time difference between Pennsylvania and Oregon but had a hot rumor that my book had won the Hugo. So I called a friend in Portland who was coming to visit in a few days to stop by the house and pick up any telegrams that might be lying about. Which they did; so about 5 days after the Heidelberg meeting was over I got three, hand-delivered telegrams, one of which said Congratulations your novel won Hugo award Terry Car Ac Books, one which said Congratulations your novel won Hugo award Perry Barr Ace Boops, and one which said Congratulations sinister Hugo more please John Bangsund. It was that one which made the day. I didn’t believe the others, but you clinched it. When I get news from North Carlton, Victoria, I believe it. It was a lovely thing to do, and I do thank you.

Alan Nourse has the actual, physical Hugo; apparently Terry Carr (or Perry Barr, of Ace Boops) gave it to him, saying “You can give it to her, Alan, you both live on the West Coast”, which is perfectly true, only he lives in North Bend Washington and I live in Portland Oregon, but what are these little provincial differences? Oh, are you from America, do you know my friend James Peebles? Well, when Mr Nourse called tonight I asked him just to put some fuel in the rocket and fly it down. He said he’d thought of that. We don’t seem to have thought of any other solution yet. But that’s all right. I don’t need a bronze rocket. I have your telegram.’

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