Two-Gun Bob: A Probable Outline

Kevin Cook was moping about his vast library, wondering what might make a nice offering before the public for March 10 — and he found something connected to an event 84 years ago today. Spotting the John Hancock of P. Schuyler Miller, a vestigial nerve twanged in his ancestral memory.

And he saw:

P. Schuyler Miller (1912-1974) is probably best remembered today for his book reviews for Astounding Science Fiction/Analog from 1945 until his death, but he was already a professional author from 1930 onward. The Titan — inscription below — is a collection of his best science fiction short stories.

But for us Robert E. Howard fans, Miller is known as the co-author, with John D. Clark, of “A Probable Outline of Conan’s Career.” The original draft of that outline was sent to Howard in Cross Plains, Texas.

Howard’s March 10, 1936 reply to Miller provides the most background information regarding Conan that we have directly from Howard himself. Was it a good thing that the outline was written so that Howard provided so much background for Conan?

Yes and no.

The information is interesting to anyone captivated by Howard’s creation of the Hyborian Age and Conan’s world.

But, and it’s big but, I believe that the revised outline first published in 1938 in The Hyborian Age was the very impetus for L. Sprague de Camp to fashion his ridiculous idea of “The Conan Saga,” and together with Lin Carter to decide to write novels “filling in the blanks within the outline.”

Who would guess that such an innocuous fan gesture would lead to such terrible results?  

Without the very idea of the outline in his head, de Camp might have just edited an eight book Lancer series with the original Howard tales, he and Carter only completing the Conan fragments that REH left at his death — and not have had any thoughts about “blank” spaces that had to be filled in.

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