I hardly need to sing the praises of the late Tanith Lee (1947 – 2015). A two-time World Fantasy winner, Horror Grandmaster, Hugo nominee, yadda yadda yadda, she rose out of nowhere writing sword & sorcery (generally a male-dominated field) with the Nebula-nominated The Birthgrave, and went on to pen 70 novels, 300 short stories and create a style of lush, dark fantasy perhaps best represented by her two best-known series: The Tales of the Flat Earth and The Books of Paradys.
Lee was goth before goths, and alternative before we knew that was a thing. Her style, which was lush and baroque, but not always straightforward for the reader, prose designed to read aloud. Her settings and atmospheres were strongly in the tradition of “the Weird,” owing much to the influence of writers such as Lord Dunsany and Jack Vance.
And finally, after looking at various award winners over the past year and articles about authors’ debuts and the novels published in 1979, it has come time to close out this series of articles with a look at some of the non-award winning short fiction published in 1979.
By 1979, Philip José Farmer had published the first three novels in his Riverworld series as well as a novelette set in the same world, entitled “Riverworld.” When he reprinted the novelette in 1979 in his collection Riverworld and Other Stories, Farmer expanded the story from 12,000 to 33,750 words, effectively publishing a new story in the popular series about humanity’s afterlife on an infinite river.
John M. Ford has made the news recently as the rights to reprint his all too few works, plus an unfinished novel, have been disentangled. In 1979 he published six stories in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (his first sale was in 1976). These stories included “Mandalay,” which kicked off his Alternities, Inc. series of stories, as well as “The Adventure of the Solitary Engineer” and “The Sapphire as Big as the Marsport Hilton.”
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro introduced her vampire, the Count Saint-Germain, in 1978 in the novel Hotel Transylvania. In 1979, she published her first short story about him, “Seat Partner,” detailing his experiences on an airplane, a far cry from the historical settings of the novels he usually inhabits.
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.