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Empires is a science-fiction story setting created by Chris F. Grant. It has a very Star Wars-esque style to it, with influences from many other science fiction settings as well. Empires in Furry Fandom was created early in the winter of 1989 in Woodland, California, with the encouragement of a friend.
In 1989, when the fanzine Yarf was being created, there was interest in a the creation of some regular features to help serve as anchors for the new 'zine. Chris F. Grant, who was in close contact with the Yarf! staff at the time, was interested in turning Empires into a comic feature as a "10-to-15 chapter mini-series". The original science-fiction setting of the story had a mix of humans and aliens, including some furry aliens not based on terrestrial animals (rather like Chewbacca in Star Wars). Chris's friends convinced him to simply replace the creatures with anthropomorphic animals and leave humans out of it. The January 1990 debut of Yarf! was also the debut of the dual-storyline Empires: the Ace of Spades and the interwoven companion story Empires: Morrigan's War
Chris Grant contributed the cover art for Yarf! Issue #1, and continued to contribute cover art at fairly regular intervals (about every 10 or so issues). The "miniseries" quickly grew into a 40-chapter, 440-page ongoing story involving a regionalized war between two rival galactic governments, with numerous intertwined sub-plots and characters, two of which became iconic representations of Empires in furry fandom (Cpl. Barona and Cpt. Morrigan). The series ran regularly until January of 1996, when the series came to a final conclusion.
The production of Empires: TAOS/MW ran a gamut of production values. The constantly rotating cast of inkers created an ongoing joke within furry fandom at the time in which Grant was portrayed (humorously) as a harsh, whip-cracking deadline-adhering taskmaster, enslaving various artists to ink a handful of episodes at a time before tossing them aside like so many used dishrags. Inkers included Eric Blumrich, Zjonni, Dan Flahive, Jimmy Chin and others who capitalized on the "Ink! Ink! Ink!" running gag. One-issue guest inkers were later featured and at times it was almost a rite-of-passage for artists to ink something to do with Empires. At the same time, many satires of Empires appeared, including humorous digs from Jim Groat, Roy D. Pounds II and others, many of these appeared in Yarf! alongside the feature they were parodying.
In 1991, as the project was obviously drawing to a conclusion, plans were made to contribute a more sedate story to the fanzine Mythagoras called Empires: Borderline. The sporadic nature of the Mythagoras schedule doomed the project, and Grant was later contacted by Ben Dunn of Antarctic Press at the 1991 San Diego ComiCon to produce a story for his new comic Furrlough. The Furrlough effort, titled Empires: Thunderhead, was again to be a lead-off anchor feature for the military-themed anthology. A first chapter was created, inked by Eric Elliott, and ran in issue #1 of Furrlough when editorial power was placed in the hands of Shon Howell. Shon Howell's policy was to keep Furrlough as a 'Furry-only' 'zine, without humans featured, and by this time in the original Yarf!-based storyline humans had begun to be featured prominently, and the chapter of Empires: Thunderhead already featured also included many humans. Shon Howell declined to keep the feature, and it was the one and only time that it appeared.
Later, when Dwight Dutton revived the APA Huzzah, the project originally destined for Mythagoras was revived and limped along for a further three chapters, only to fail when Grant became involved in seeking a degree at a local college in Idaho. Since then, there has been no more Empires graphic features produced, although numerous short stories have been produced since that have since abandoned the anthropomorphic characters and gone back to its original, science-fiction roots. Two issues of a self-published background information 'zine called Iriesii Manifest were produced by Grant, in 1996 but it was not followed up on (even though 90% of the materiel needed for a third issue is available).
The series was well into 20+ chapters when people at conventions expressed a desire to buy into the past chapters but were reluctant to buy all the back issues of Yarf!. Grant began compiling chapters into collections, 10 chapters per book, and sold them under the aegis of Central Empire Productions. The unofficial motto of CEP was "Taking a Bite out of the World Since 1989"; Empires was first published in Yarf #1 in January, 1990, production having begun in 1989.
Central Empire Productions has since been incorporated as a legal business entity in the state of Idaho (sole propietorship) Chamber of Commerce.
In 2005, after returning from a combat tour in Iraq, Chris Grant registered Central Empire Productions as a legally incorporated, sole-proprietor business in the Idaho State Chamber of Commerce. A re-emergence of Empires is planned, under the aegis of Iriesii Manifest to avoid confusion with the numerous web references to the Age of Empires videogame.
"Furry Universe" Empires Projects
- Empires: The Ace of Spades / Morrigan's War: Yarf! fanzine, 1990-1996.
- Empires: Borderline: Mythagoras, 1991 (first attempt; unfinished).
- Empires: Thunderhead: Furrlough anthology, 1991; cancelled by editor.
- Empires: Borderline: Huzzah APA, 1994 (second attempt; unfinished).