Not too long ago, I decided to try out a Star Wars-themed MMORPG, because I am periodically in the mood to do such things as a way of stress relief. It so happens that Star Wars Combine is a free MMORPG based on the Star Wars universe (but in a parallel sort of way, as none of the events that are ‘canon’ in the Star Wars movie ever happened in the game). There is one indisputable lesson that can be learned from the game—it really is a lonely galaxy out there.
In making a character I decided that I wanted to be a pilot extraordinaire. In looking at the various “races” within the Star Wars Universe, I saw that a Devaronian would fit the bill nicely so I chose that. I also decided, when I saw that its pictured looked rather devilish (and that’s putting it nicely) to do a bit of research into how that particular people got that particular look. As it turns out, when the original Star Wars film was being made (on a low budget, we must remember), a second-hand devil costume had to be used because that was all that was available, and so later on after the series became popular and enduring, a story had to be invented as to why a people with horns that look like ‘legends of devils in thousands of cultures’ (!) came about. The official story was that this people evolved horns to fight off predatory birds on their home planet. Whatever it is they are selling, I’m not buying it. The truth is much more entertaining anyway.
After creating my pilot, who is skilled at flying both capital ships (in a navy, these would be ships like cruisers, battleships, and aircraft carriers) as well as smaller freighters, which are his normal assignments. He is a civilian, but a patriotic one. I was pretty insistent on joining the New Republic, as my sympathies are with egalitarian societies and I’m rather hostile to empires, nor am I anarchial enough to enjoy pirate federations. At any rate, I found that there was a company who offered New Republic citizenship for their employees, and that they were looking for logistic pilots, so I signed up and joined up with their fleet, where I fly mostly a bulk frieighter (but occasionally other vehicles) either delivering raw materials or picking up stray ships in other star systems. Basically, I’m one of the UPS guys of the Star Wars Combine.
And it’s mildly amusing as well. Most of the time it is rather lonely, as being a logistic pilot offers few opportunities for glory. However, the lack of ego associated with the piloting profession provides plenty of opportunity to make like-minded acquaintances who likewise pilot the lonely expanses of space. Being a space pilot would be in many ways like being a truck driver—long runs, fairly mundane jobs, and knowing that one’s work in shipping allows the trade to take place that the rest of the world takes for granted. I have never liked to share a highway with too many big trucks (they’re slow and rather ungainly vehicles), but I have always appreciated what they did in hauling goods. The same is true of trains and ships.
It is remarkable and unusual that when we imagine the universe we see it as a larger version of our own lives here on this planet earth. When we think of the massive space between star systems, we try to shink that distance with “warp drives” and “hyperdrives” so that the time and distance becomes manageable. We add trade routes, create governments that work on the same basic level as our governments only on a much larger scale. We have fights, we steal things, we have diplomats, we have arms races, we have soldiers and naval officers (for fighting in space is merely a three-dimensional analogue to the mostly two-dimensional fighting of navies). In short, we create the galaxy in our own image. Maybe it’s a good thing we are prisoners of our planet so far. I don’t think we’re ready for intergalactic expansion yet as a species.
And, as my work as an intergalactic bulk freighter pilot demonstrates, there is a lot of junk out in space. People just leave ships all over and someone has to go and pick them up. One planet has a storage facility and supplies are needed in another planet, so some logistics pilots (aka space truck drivers) are called to move the materials from point A to point B and then to pick up some spare ships in point C before heading back to point A again. I find it intriguing how we visualize the galaxy as merely a larger form of our own world, with the same tasks that need to be done. But it is a lonely galaxy out there, largely because it is a lonely galaxy inside our own hearts and minds. For the worlds we create outside of us are merely drawn from the worlds we know inside of ourselves. Our creations tell on us, and so we had better pay attention to what they say.