If you’ve read Interview with a Micronationalist: Part I you’ll be familiar with the concept of a micronation. If, however, for some strange reason you’re reading part two of something before part one a micronation is a country established by a single person or a small group, either because they have nurtured the desire to rule their own country to the point where their plans came to fruition and a new nation emerged blinking into the world, or because it was simply something to do.
The Aerican Empire was founded along the lines of one of these principles (see if you can guess which) in 1987 by the then 5 year old Eric Lis who decided it would be fun to create a city. This city grew until in 1998 the Aerican Empire purchased land on Mars, thus founding its first extra-terrestrial colony. Following the adoption of various other micronations as colonies the Empire now transcends all borders as an international entity.
Founder and Emperor Eric Lis helpfully answered our questions to shed some light on his micronation.
Sick Chirpse (SC):How does the Aerican Empire maintain its independence from other nations?
Emperor Eric Lis (EL): The Empire maintains its independence through the power of obscurity. As yet, for better or worse, we have yet to achieve sufficient size or notoriety for Canada or any of the other countries which surround our territory to take issue with our claims. Our citizens mostly continue to pay taxes to and use the services of their respective “macro-nations.”
SC: Do you find it a struggle to persuade people to accept the independence of the Aerican Empire? Do people ever refuse to take you seriously as a head of state?
EL: It’s been known to happen. Most people that I meet understandably assume that it’s a game or a joke. Some few people react with outright disbelief and contempt for the very idea, which I think shows both a narrow appreciation for political science and a tragically poor sense of humour. I would have to say that only a handful of people in the world take me seriously as a head of state, in the sense of showing me the respect and deference one usually shows to a world leader, but that most people I know appreciate that it makes me more interesting. It’s never been a struggle to persuade people that we’re independent because, when they resist, I don’t struggle. People believe what they want to believe, and whether someone else believes me, by and large, has no impact on how well the Empire grows.
SC: What are the chief products and cultural aspects of the Aerican Empire?
EL: The Empire’s main export is artwork. Our citizens produce huge volumes of poetry, numerous paintings and drawings, and a tremendous number of painted miniature figurines. A small number of our citizens have ever been paid to do so.
It’s hard to pick one cultural aspect of the Empire that’s dominant over others. Undoubtedly, many if not most of our citizens are brought together by a shared love of science fiction, fantasy, and absurdist comedy. The vast majority of people who join the Empire are the sorts of people who can quote reams of Monty Python and have extensive knowledge of movies and TV shows with the word “star” in the title. On a semi-related note, we’re by and large united by an appreciation for wit and wisdom; we enjoy seeing intelligence in the things we watch and read, and we value education.
SC: Do you have any plans to extend the Aerican Empire economically, culturally or physically?
EL: Yes. Whether such plans are feasible, or indeed, theoretically possible according to the laws of physics, remains to be seen. I’m a big believer in setting seemingly impossible goals.
SC: Have the driving goals of the Aerican Empire altered at all since its creation?
EL: In some ways, the goals have changed quite a lot. When we first founded the Empire, we were very young, and it might be fair to say that we didn’t really have any goals at all to begin with. As we’ve grown and become, if not more mature, then at least more capable of forming long-term plans, our goals have changed with us. Whereas the Empire probably started off as a fun way to spend an afternoon, it’s grown into a genuine attempt to build something lasting and self-perpetuating.
SC: Are these goals at odds with any other nations?
EL: Not directly, no. That said, if our goal is “create a sustainable political entity” then the nations whose land we’re claiming will take issue with our success.
SC: Are any nations hostile towards the existence of the Aerican Empire?
EL: At this time, no. A long time ago, a number of states were, but this was back when we were little kids and thought that war was entertaining. It’s been a long time since then. There are plenty of nations who don’t like the way we do things, or who disagree with us on philosophical points, but I don’t think there are any nations, micro or otherwise, that are hostile.
SC: Has being the ruler of your own empire altered your life in any way?
EL: Yes. It’s made my life a great deal more fun. Aside from the fact that it gives me something interesting to tell people about myself, it’s put me in touch with interesting, exciting people all over the world, who I would never have met otherwise. It’s broadened my horizons and increased my understanding of the world.
SC: What is your proudest achievement in regard to being the ruler of the Aerican Empire?
EL: The proudest moment in my “career” was probably about six or seven years back, when I suddenly realized that a significant number of our holidays, special events, and ongoing projects were initiatives that I hadn’t created myself. It was the moment that I realized that our culture and our activity had evolved beyond anything I, personally, could have made up, and that hundreds of people were adding their own input and ideas. It meant that I had build something about which other people could feel passionate and involved, and that’s one of the best things anyone can do with their life.
Eric Lis has taken Aerica from a childhood game and built it into an international empire with land on Mars; next time someone asks you what you’ve done lately, just think about that.
If the Aerican Empire sounds like the thing for you just head to aericanempire.com for more information.