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Actually, this ought to be called "The Eternal Emperor’s Cookbook," because that’s who started the whole business. A gourmet from way, way back, the Eternal Emperor cooked up at least one dish for nearly every episode of Sten. When he stopped cooking, of course, is when the drakh hit the clottin’ fan.

My late partner, Chris Bunch, and I made cooking an integral part of the Emperor's character to help humanize him. This was a guy, after all, who over several thousand years had leveraged his discovery and control of the ultimate source of energy into a Galactic Empire with billions upon billions of subjects - both alien and human alike. (Although the word "alien" was considered bigoted in Sten's world and the term "Beings" was preferred.)

We didn't want some brooding despot of a monarch, who slouched on an enormous throne dispensing injustice and misery right and left just for the clot of it. We wanted the Emperor down to earth - making that quality as much a part of his success as the secret of immortality and Anti-Matter Two. (AM2)

Chris and I built in a longing for the good old days of the Twenty Second Century. The Emperor is constantly tinkering in his workshops, trying to duplicate everything from the best formula for varnish used on really good acoustic guitars to his beloved Scotch, which he misses most of all.

He's also constantly trying to recreate the dishes of his youth, spending fortunes - both large and small - to bring crucial herbs and spices back from extinction.

The Emperor, we decided, would be a man who started life at the very bottom rung. Born to a family who owned a small diner on the polluted - and overcrowded - main island of Hawaii, he's orphaned at an early age but still has vivid memories of family members working and laughing in the diner's kitchen. His father liked to boast that he could not only duplicate any dish but improve upon the recipe. The scent and taste of those marvelous creations haunt his dreams for many hundreds of years.

The main rule Chris and I imposed on the books was that the recipes had to have something to do with the book's plot, or the scene in which the cooking occurs.

If the Emp is considering dropping a planet buster on an enemy, for example, Nuked Hen becomes the Dish Du Jour. A night spent pondering diplomatic twists and turns over several jugs of Scotch - then bring on Angelo Stew, the ultimate hangover cure.

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