If every published Howard-written Conan story was used, and every Howard unsold Conan fragment, and every unsold Howard story that had a similar feel to Conan, what could possibly be left but Conan fan fiction? Fan fiction is not at all a new phenomenon; Sherlock Holmes obsessives had long been writing their continuing adventures of the great sleuth. Fanzine writers published their green ink versions of their favorite characters issue after issue. L. Sprague de Camp was hardly alone in his continuing itch for more Conan. The only surprise was the source.
In a letter dated September 26, 1956, de Camp let a fan in on the news.
There are no more Howard mss suitable for use in the Conan series, as far as I am concerned. John Clark and I have been over all of them with a fine-tooth comb, and as you saw yourself we had gotten pretty far down in the barrel. However, a Lieutenant in the Swedish Air Force, Bjorn Nyberg (pronounced, I think, about like Newberry) has written a novel, The Return of Conan, which Marty [Greenberg] wants to bring out as a book and which Fantastic Universe is thinking of running some episodes from as shorts. But, as Lt. Nyberg’s English retains considerable Swedish flavor, the plan is for me to do some mild rewriting. Otherwise the guy has done a very creditable pastiche, with the original flavor and idiom.
Björn Emil Oscar Nyberg (1929-2004) was a Swedish fantasy fan and Conan obsessive. Little is recorded about his life except for a few paragraphs in various fanzines.
He taught himself English as a teen and the first book in English he read was Edgar Rice Burrough’s A Fighting Man of Mars. A chance loan of Donald A. Wollheim’s magazine Avon Fantasy Reader introduced Nyberg to Howard via “A Witch Shall Be Born.” Instantly hooked, Nyberg tried to find everything by Howard he could, not an easy task in Sweden.
While a lieutenant in the Swedish Air Force, he had access to a typewriter and one day in the summer of 1955 he used his lunch break to “Start on a sequel to the Conan saga!” The part-time author needed two years to finish his story, but the f&sf community in Sweden was even smaller than the one in the U.S. One of Nyberg’s friends was K. G. Kindberg, the owner of the Swedish sf magazine HÄPNA, who saw the half-complete manuscript and liked the story. Enough so that during a trip to the U.S. he sold Marty Greenberg on the idea of publishing it. Nyberg hurriedly completed the work, Greenberg got de Camp to give it a rewrite, and every fan fiction writer’s dream came true.
Nyberg wrote a few more Conan stories with de Camp and Lin Carter and one or two non-Conan works in Swedish. A 1989 interview gave a broader view of his non-writing life.
After school joined the Swedish Air Force and served in the Supply & Administration Corps until 1960, when I graduated from the Stockholm Graduate School of Business, where I had started studying in 1956. Married in 1961.
Worked with a leading Swedish conglomerate, the Bonnier Group, until 1970, when we moved to France, where I worked for U.S.-owned companies until 1981, when we moved to Scotland, where I was appointed Managing Director and Chief Exexutive for Europe. That job terminated in 1985, when a power struggle in the U.S. parent was lost by my Chairman.
Since then, I work as a consultant, mostly in overall management and export marketing.
The text inside the book properly spells the author’s name as Björn. The dust jacket cover and spine leaves off the umlaut while the front flap spells the name as B’jorn!
The dust jacket was apparently designed for a much fatter book. The front and rear flaps are a full 4.5” wide. No other Conan book has flaps even 4” wide.
The “Other Books in This Series” list is followed by a “To Be Published” mention of The Legacy of Conan. Obviously, this was never published. I haven’t found any other reference to such a title to indicate what it might have contained. However, the same de Camp letter excerpted above mentions “vague talk, mostly on Marty’s part, of another novel to be written by me, or by Leigh Brackett, or by the two of us in collaboration.” That didn’t happen, for fairly obvious reasons. “There’s not enough money in sight, and Leigh and I are both pretty busy people.”
George W. Earley, Hartford Courant, December 15, 1957
It’s a wonderous tale and marvelously told – back to your typewriter, Mr. Nyberg!
Contents and original publication
• “Prologue” (original to this volume).
• Chapter 1 (original to this volume).
• Chapters 2-5 (also published as “Conan the Victorious,” Fantastic Universe, September 1957).
• Chapters 6-10 (original to this volume).
• “Epilogue” (original to this volume).
The Return of Conan, by Björn Nyberg & L. Sprague de Camp, 1957, copyright registration 25Aug57, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 55-7113, 191 pages, title #65, back panel #34, $3.00. 5000 hardbound copies printed. Hardback, red boards, spine lettered in black. Jacket design by Wallace Wood. “First Printing” on copyright page. Manufactured in the U.S.A. by H. Wolff. Back panel: 35 titles. Gnome Press address given as 80 East 11th St., N.Y. 3.