|This article contains information or refers to a micronation or element of micronationalism that is largely non-serious or comical in nature.|
The Aerican Empire (conventionally referred to in short form as Aerica) is a micronation founded in May 1987, which has no sovereign territory of its own and has never been recognized by any other sovereign state as existing. In 2000 The New York Times described its website as "one of the more imaginative" micronation sites.
Its members claim sovereignty over a vast disconnected territory, including a square kilometer of land in Australia, a house-sized area in Montreal, Canada (containing the "Embassy to Everything Else"), several other areas of the Earth, a colony on Mars, the northern hemisphere of Pluto, and an imaginary planet.
As with most micronations, the number of members ("citizens") has fluctuated wildly with time. In May 2009, it was claimed to exceed 400 people.
The Empire's mission statement is "The Empire exists to facilitate the evolution of a society wherein the Empire itself is no longer necessary." It claims to be organized as a parliamentary democracy, with various elected bodies and offices, under the oversight of an Emperor (currently the founder Eric Lis). The Aerican Empire first issued coinage in November 2009. It does not have printed passports, but has a downloadable "novelty passport" and ID card. The first issued passport was exhibited in the Palais de Tokyo 2007 Micronational art exhibition. The group's activities are permeated by a great deal of humour and a love of science fiction and fantasy, with recurrent references to Star Wars, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and similar works. Annually, the Empire holds story-writing contests, role-playing and wargaming days, and such events as the Dog-Biscuit Appreciation Day Scavenger Hunt. It also developed a "religion" called Silinism, the worship of the Great Penguin; originally intended as a joke, but which the group claims to have thirty practitioners worldwide. It has holidays and "niftydays" (such as 2 January Procrastinator's Day, 27 February *Oops* Day, 19 March What the Heck is That Day, and 26 October Topin Wagglegammon, The Niftiest Day of the Year. Possibly the single most widespread cultural activity within the Empire is gaming, particularly role-playing games and wargaming. The Aerican Empire's official gaming club (AEGIS) is associated with seven universities worldwide and has sponsored/funded/supported an annual gaming day on December 29 since 2003. AEGIS has funded the creation of several Aerican Empire-themed Warhammer 40K armies which have competed nationally in tournaments.
The Aerican Empire was founded on 8 May 1987 by Montreal resident Eric Lis and a core group of friends. Lis, who founded the Aerican Empire as a child, obtained M.D., C.M. from McGill University and was once described as the only his man ever to have his writings published in the Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Weird Tales Magazine in the same year.
For the first ten years the Empire was almost wholly fictional, claiming sovereignty over a vast galaxy of planets and engaging in "wars" against other micronations. After the advent of the Internet, through which the founders discovered other micronations similar to their own, the Empire slowly abandoned most fictional elements and worked towards becoming a political entity rather than a hobby. In 1997, the Empire created a Web site.
In 2000, the first growth spurt in the Empire's population was triggered by an article in the New York Times. In the months following this, the Empire's membership rose to over five hundred people. This number slowly fell over the following years as members left, eventually stabilizing and rising again with time.
The Aerican Empire is a parliamentary democracy. The primary elected body is known as the Senate, and is composed of nineteen individuals, two representatives from each area of the Empire as well as the head of state, the Emperor. This Senate serves as both the executive and legislative arm of the government.
Overseeing the Senate is the Emperor, the elected head of state. Within the Empire, "Emperor" is a title rather than an accurate description, and the Emperor holds few powers beyond a single vote in the Senate and a second Senate vote in case of a deadlocked vote.
The culture of the Aerican Empire has grown from the starting principle that it attracted individuals with strong senses of humour and a love of science fiction, fantasy, and games. As a result, modern Imperial culture is filled with references to Star Wars, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and other such institutions. Annually, the Empire holds story-writing contests, role-playing and war-gaming days, and such events as the Dog-Biscuit Appreciation Day Scavenger Hunt.
Side by side with the Empire has grown a modest religion, Silinism, the worship of the Great Penguin. Although created primarily for humour, the last decade has seen earnest converts to the faith, which now numbers roughly thirty practitioners worldwide. It is the primary teaching of this church that humour is holy and that living a good life means learning to laugh at the universe and share laughter with others.
As is appropriate for a body such as the Aerican Empire, the calendar is composed primarily of "gag" holidays. Nationally recognized holidays (and "niftydays") within the Empire include 2 January (Procrastinator's Day), 27 February (*Oops* Day), 19 March (What the Heck is That Day), 14 April (Tempting Fate Day), 25 May (Towel Day), 28 August (Significant Historical Events Day), and 26 October (Topin Wagglegammon, The Niftiest Day of the Year).
Possibly the single most widespread cultural activity within the Empire is gaming, particularly role-playing games and war-gaming. The Aerican Empire's official gaming club (AEGIS) is associated with seven universities worldwide and has sponsored/funded/supported an annual gaming day on December 29 since 2003. AEGIS has funded the creation of several Aerican Empire-themed Warhammer 40K armies which have competed nationally in tournaments.
As with any micronation, the legitimacy of the Empire as a nation and/or state is debatable, particularly due to the Empire's self-acknowledged ridiculous claims. While the Empire has always steadfastly maintained that it is a real nation with the goal of eventual international recognition, the people who make up the Empire understand the difficulty with this. The Empire would have a better chance of obtaining international recognition if "silly" elements were abandoned, but without these elements, it would no longer be the Empire. As such, the legitimacy of the Empire as a serious and "real" nation will no doubt remain contentious.
- The Aerican Empire
- O'Driscoll,F: Ils ne siègent pas à l'ONU, ISBN 2878672518
- Ryan, J: Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Self-Proclaimed Nations, ISBN 1741047307
- The New York Times: The New York Times, 25 May 2000, "Utopian Rulers, and Spoofs, Stake Out Territory Online". Reprinted in Haaretz, The Age, The Houston Chronicle, and The Sydney Morning Herald.
- Context Magazine: Context Magazine, April–May 2001, "Altered States".
- The Boston Phoenix: The Boston Phoenix, October 2000, "States of Mind".
- Le Soleil: Le Soleil, 18 January 2001, "Vive Eric 1er, empereur virtuel!".
- Público: Público, 16 January 2000, "ESPECIAL DOMINGO: Paises virtualmente (in)correctos".
- CBC Daybreak: Daybreak, 13 July 2006, "The Aerican Empire: Interview With Eric Lis". Montreal: CBC Radio.
- The Montreal Mirror: The Montreal Mirror, 17 August 2006, "The little empire that could".[dead link]