RIMA: Let’s start with our traditional introductory question – what drew you to becoming a participant in micronationalism?
ACII: I had originally created Gotzborg on paper in 1989 as a way to let out my creative side. Paper Gotzborg existed and ran between myself and some close friends until about 1995 when other things became more of a focus. I do remember thinking that there must be others who were into this ‘running a nation’ sort of thing and half-heartedly searched the Internet for a couple years until I stumbled through one of my Internet searches on ‘micronationalism’. So in answer to your question it was the desire to carry on from the paper world and get involved in the Internet world instead, as the opportunities were obviously much better for interaction with others.
RIMA: You are the founder, and ruler, of the Royal Kingdom of Gotzborg, which is the most well-known part of your micronational résumé. Certainly upon its Internet debut in 2004, it immediately raised eyebrows because of the uncharacteristically detailed level of planning behind the launch. Would you share with us your memories and motivations leading up to this launch?
ACII: As I alluded to in the first question, a lot of it was simple transference of information and such from the years I had spent building things. The real work was finding the yellowed old pages and getting it typed into the computer. The discovery of the Internet micronationalism quite excited me with the potential to bring a whole new world of people into contact with Gotzborg and ‘make a run’ on the international scene. I remember thinking about how it would showcase the work I had spent years doing, and as a way of storing it in a more accessible way (I kept all the paper Gotzborg in an old Army ammo box…which I still have) and from which I could update and change as needed. Having a couple citizens was of interest although not the overriding priority, I was only driving to put the nation up and have it there.
RIMA: Let’s focus on Gotzborg and what one can consider to be its two major diplomatic standoffs. First, the “surprise” annexation of Pendronia, which had been seriously considering unification with Hanover at the time, and the resulting fallout between Gotzborg and Hanover. Can you explain to us the motivation for Gotzborg’s annexation of Pendronia and the rationale for the “hush-hush” process? Did Hanover, in your opinion, over-react in condemning the annexation?
ACII: Well the motivation at the time was that Pendronia was seeing [failing] involvement as King David had begun to move on in life. Hanover at the time was most closely tied to Pendronia, just through the way things had grown and when the discussion arose as to save Pendronia, Hanover seemed the right solution. A lot of us had invested a good amount of time and work in Pendronia and although it was never a real firecracker micronation, it was a good one and a good home to those of us who were there. After we started discussions with Hanover, I quickly became disenfranchised with being a part of that Kingdom. Through the negotiations it was clear in my opinion that Pendronia wasn’t going to have the kind of showcase and seniority I felt was necessary. Coupled to this there were some personality conflicts with a couple members of Hanover which rubbed us the wrong way. It was mid-way through these discussions I approached Stephen (now King of Pendronia) and Nicholas and brought up my concerns with them. Thankfully they were both equally concerned and dismayed. It was at this point I proposed bringing Gotzborg back officially (it was online but not active or official) and then putting Pendronia under that banner. Although King David the founder had abdicated, we contacted him and got his approval, worked out the issue of standing and seniority within Gotzborg and then did the deed, quickly cancelling the negotiations shortly thereafter made the decree.
I don’t quite know what I expected from Hanover when the move was made, I do think they overreacted to some degree, and it unfortunately caused quite a bit of bad blood there, which effectively confirmed we had made the right decision.
RIMA: That brings us to the second standoff – specifically the October 2006 standoff with Paulovia over the proposed secession of Anthelia to Gotzborg. This incident was covered in detail by a recent article by RIMA, but would you provide some personal insight on your reaction to Paulovia’s actions?
ACII: Disappointment really. Paulovia had effectively been the first nation that came into the inner sphere and was on the same page. Within the Royal Government itself we had always been concerned that Paulovia was a one man operation however there was good and useful interaction in a more simulationist way with them than with many others. When the situation reflected in the RIMA article occurred, my immediate reaction was that we would have to react strongly and effectively on the ‘simulationist’ side. On paper the strength of Gotzborg far outmatched Paulovia and even if they had launched some sort of strike, it would only have been a minor setback before we would have ‘returned fire’. On the other side I was slightly incredulous, I mean we had given anything and everything to Paulovia in terms of support, shelter and I think it helped their reputation in the community to some degree. To have them turn on us like that was very disappointing and angered me. In retrospect however, I think they were just trying to keep things fresh and create some waves in the pool to keep things interesting.
RIMA: Reflecting on Gotzborg as a micronation, what would you consider the Royal Kingdom’s strengths?
ACII: Well I think this could be one of the more documented questions on Gotzborg, but it’s definitely the culture, the military and the law component which were our biggest strengths. This was brought together in the graphical representation of the first two which no other nation had ever really done to that scale and degree.
RIMA: Gotzborg may have had one of the most stable economies during its day and the economy came to be a central part of its day-to-day existence. So much so that with the dawn of 2007, some policy makers in Gotzborg were beginning to regret the intense focus on the economy, as other policy areas were being neglected as a result. Would you consider this to be one of the systemic weaknesses of Gotzborg? What other areas do you think the micronation showed weakness in?
ACII: It was important at the time and I think everyone definitely saw a big hole to fill. Many nations before and during had or were attempting it and I think everyone saw the light at the end of the tunnel to get ourselves there. Unfortunately as you stated, this caused some neglect elsewhere. I will play one of my favourite violins here for a moment, but it all came back to manpower. Gotzborg was really no different than any other nation, always a core group of working individuals who contribute their time and resources to the effort. This is at the foundation of what was a sole economic focus in exclusion of much else. I can’t think of any other areas of weakness at this time, although there always are.
RIMA: Move forward to April 2007: Gotzborg is still operating at a healthy pace, though within the halls of the Royal Cabinet Office, concerns are beginning to arise that your ongoing absence for long periods is starting to take its toll on implementation of new policy, given the central role of the Gotzborg Crown in enacting new laws, regulations, and etcetera. One day, April 22, Gotzers wake up to a public notice from you that their nation has been put on “hiatus” – effectively meaning that as an active micronation, Gotzborg is no more. Would you share with us what was going through your mind as you made that fateful decision? Was there any doubt or regret at that moment? What about today, nearly three years later?
ACII: My participation and involvement had begun to become more sporadic and limited over the last couple [of] months. I wasn’t involving myself as I usually had and being a keen student of micronational affairs, [I] knew what usually resulted when the Head of State slipped. Instead of see Gotzborg begin to degrade into constitutional amendments, heirs, power struggles and the conflicts that go with them, I felt that it was better to simply ‘freeze’ things and eliminate the risk mentioned above altogether. I felt that due to the reputation of the Kingdom it would keep that intact as well and avoid the destruction of so many nations that came before. I had no doubts about doing it, but I did regret having to do it to the people that were involved in Gotzborg [who] were surprised by the development. Today, three years later, I have no regrets or doubts, it was the right thing to do, no lives were lost, and the benefits outweighed the drawbacks.
RIMA: You played a key role in the founding of the Geographical Standards Organisation in the summer of 2006. What limitations of, or grievances with, the Micronational Cartography Society, if any, led to your (and thus Gotzborg’s) participation in the formation of the Organisation?
ACII: Personally I didn’t have any issues or grievances with the MCS, they operated their organization to a fairly strict set of guidelines which didn’t allow changes to the existing landmasses on Micras. I had wanted for a while to get back to Gotzborg’s original and proper landmass shape off the original maps circa 1989 and was going to ‘go it alone’. We did however decide as a Kingdom that the best course of action would be to incorporate the Gotzborg land into a new planet. This had the likewise benefit of bringing over other nations who shared our desire to interact in a more simulationist way and give better basis to the economic plans we were working on. My overall view of the MCS was pretty laissez-faire. They had to deal with a wide cross-section of micronations and deal with the constant management of new and dead ones coming and going, a lot of babysitting and trying to please everyone just ending up with them firming up their rules over time. If you didn’t like it, you knew where you could go. And so we did.
RIMA: With respect to the Novasolum Regional Community, what would you consider its greatest success, and what do you think led to its eventual failure?
ACII: I think the idea of the Regional community and the fact [that] we had [its existence signed by a multilateral agreement] between the nations involved was itself the greatest success. Yes we had some good interactions in different areas after the signing but the idea of the community itself, especially with the variety of nations that were involved, was worthwhile. The eventual failure was like [that] with so many other nations and organizations that have come and gone: Gotzborg went on hiatus, Anthelia didn’t have enough manpower to manage through, and other nations simply lost interest or never had the same keen desire and enthusiasm for the project that Gotzborg and Anthelia did. Although I am sad of its passing, I still consider the effort and success and an example for others.
RIMA: It has been almost three years since you last participated in micronationalism. When you look at the community today versus what it was during your participation, what do you see as the key differences?
ACII: Maybe I am getting old, but it’s the people. As with anything, time moves on and things change. However with the short attention spans and the modern Internet, time moves much more quickly than it does in real life. Many of the old nations [that] I knew and dealt with are gone, others are still suffering from the usual issues of participation and involvement, and still others have gone through their fourth re-imagining or reincarnation. I see many more new little nations that are reflective of how I was in 1989. I think my ‘generation’ of micronationalists has evolved. I see many who have ‘retired’ somewhat, and only a small few are still involved in mainstream leadership roles. Overall I see few micronational ‘leaders’ in the sector.
RIMA: What do you think is the most defining moment of the Simulationist community’s history?
ACII: Ooh, good question. I hate to be Gotz-centric, but it’s hard to define *who* the simulationist community actually was [as] everyone had some degree of involvement in it. Without having a micronational history book at my fingertips, I can’t really say. Although it would be worth a good panel discussion to determine!
RIMA: Thinking back to when you were actively participating in micronationalism, what micronation strikes you as the most overrated? The most underrated?
ACII: Haha, the keen micro-political sense in me still lives, knowing and seeing what kinds of fluff these questions tend to generate. I think the most overrated micronation way back when was definitely Lovely. Although it did a lot to bring a whole new crop of people into the ‘world’ it was a whole lot of hype about nothing really. The most underrated nation I would have to give to a couple, Natopia for one and Anthelia for another. Although on the surface it looked like Nathan ran Natopia on the ceiling of his padded room at the sanatorium, he was dead on in how micronationalism should be: he had fun, didn’t get too crazy about anything and focused on the community of people that Natopia brought together. Although it was a little too nutty for my taste, it’s still around and has a colourful history.
Anthelia is the other underrated and I have to give a huge amount of credit to John and Koen. A couple [of] bright lights with good, solid and well founded views on things. They were not above changing things to meet the realities of micronationalism. It’s just too bad Anthelia didn’t catch on with more folks – it would have been a Gotzborg of the Republics.
RIMA: Any final thoughts?
ACII: Some things never change. Since I first began being involved in micronationalism (since about 2002 I think?) it was always about people. People could make or break a nation just by participation and the fickle and fussy nature of most micronationalists meant that nations were really fighting for a small few talented and committed persons. Successful micronations had to and have to be good at marketing, through websites, graphics and the like, but once you got them in the door, you had to back it up with things to do in government (or even more challenging … [the] private sector). Strong leadership kept a nation moving forward. Egos would often be the downfall. Micronationalism is about fun – having fun in a creative and interactive online environment without the stress and hassle found in ‘real life’.