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Lyle Zapato

Book Review: Micronations

Lyle Zapato | 2007-01-26.4350 LMT | Cascadia | Politics | Entertainment
Micronations cover

Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations by John Ryan, George Dunford, and Simon Sellars.

(My apologies to the authors for not getting to this sooner, like in time for the Year End Consumer Orgy. Also, book-review-reader beware: I am a very minor subject of this book -- three paragraphs and a flag worth -- and was sent a free copy by the publisher.)

Micronations is a colorful look -- both in the full-color photos and illustrations that appear on nearly every of its 156 pages and in the variety of colorful characters introduced -- at various nations that haven't yet been recognized by those bastards at the UN (not that it's any of their business).

It's about time a travel guide publisher has addressed these overlooked and underappreciated nations. While the unfairly diminutive prefix micro- has caused many to dismiss them as unimportant or even fictional, each and every one stands tall as a testament to the human desire for self determination (and they're all certainly more real than Belgium).

The guide's presentation is a mix of in-depth, 3-to-6-page articles on specific micronations -- going into their histories, personalities, and political intrigues (where applicable), as well as such travel-guide staples as things-to-do, driving directions, shopping and dining options, and accommodations (again, where applicable) -- with shorter boxed texts highlighting broader movements (Cascadian independence, mad Aussies, off-world colonies), topics of interest to micronationals (issuing stamps), and tidbits on micronations/micronationals that either can't sustain a fuller article (but whose presence is none the less welcome) or would require an entire book to do them true justice (Emperor Norton). The writing is light-hearted and entertaining while still being respectful of the subjects.

The micronations are divided into three loose chapters: "Serious Business", which includes those nations with compelling claims of legitimacy within the rules of the Establishment (or, barring that, their own television series); "My Backyard, My Nation", which mostly includes those who have exercised their Natural Right to seceded from their previous governments and plot their own destinies (here you would find Cascadia); and "Grand Dreams", for those nations fighting righteous causes in the face of Establishment opposition.

It's difficult to review a book like this beyond what I've already done since its topic is rather scatter-shot by nature and it can't really be judged on its practical utility as an actual travel guide (how many tourists can fit in Danny Wallace's Lovely apartment anyway?), so I'll just leave you with a smattering of the micronations included to whet your appetite:

  • Sealand, which has gotten a lot of mainstream press in years past (and continues to do so), is of course covered (it's the very first article).
  • The Republic of Molossia, an island nation adrift in a sea of Nevada whose currency is pegged to the price of Pillsbury cookie dough. They recently annexed some wetlands near Mexico.
  • The Principality of Trumania is sort of Cascadia's version of San Marino, located in the Puget Sound on Vashon Island (home of the bicycle-eating tree and the first modern incident involving a UFO and the Men in Black).
  • Whangamomona seceded from New Zealand in 1989 after a dispute over rugby league redistricting. Its most cherished former leader was a goat named Billy (or "Gumboots" to his inner circle of friends) whom some believe was assassinated.
  • The Republic of Kugelmugel consists of a 7.68m diameter wooden sphere covered in zinc-sheet that originally appeared in a vision to artist Edwin Lipburger. Tragically, control of this surface-area-minimizing nation was wrest away from Edwin when it was invaded and annexed by Austria -- if only he had covered it in aluminum!

End of post.