In 1972, the British Fantasy Society began giving out the August Derleth Fantasy Awards for best novel as voted on by their members. In 1976. The name of the awards was changed to the British Fantasy Award, although the August Derleth Award was still the name for the Best Novel Award. From the award’s founding until 2011, the August Derleth Award was presented for Best Novel. In 2012, the Robert Holdstock Award for Best Fantasy Novel was created and the August Derleth Award became focused on Horror novels. The first August Derleth Award was presented to Michael Moorcock for The Knight of the Sword and Moorcock won four of the first five awards. The last August Derleth Award (before it became a Horror Award) was announced for Sam Stone for Demon Dance, but she declined the award. The category has remained part of the awards to the present day, although a re-alignment in 2012 means the awards are now selected by a jury rather than the full membership of the British Fantasy Society. In 1980, the awards were presented at Fantasycon VI in Birmingham.
Lee was the first woman to win the August Derleth Award. Although Sam Stone would win the award in 2011 for her novel Demon Dance, no other woman accepted the award until 2014, when Lauren Beukes won it for The Shining Girls. Catriona Ward has since won the award in 2016 for Rawblood. However, when Lee won the award, it was for Best Novel. In 2012, the August Derleth Award had a focal shift to Best Horror novel, with Fantasy novels winning the Robert Holdstock Award from that point on. As it happens, even if Lee had lost in 1980, that year’s award would have gone to a woman, as the other nominees were Phyllis Eisenstein and Patricia A. McKillip.