A People’s Guide to Podracing

For Andrew

1. Amateur Podracing Circuit

Boonta Training 1.1

By canyons and canon I fly, weaving the tight corners of Rian Johnson’s smirk. This was a childhood sold to me and many others. How old were you when you first raced the yellow script up the screen?

Mon Gazza Speedway 2.1

Here on a planet “second only to Kessel in spice production,” the ‘90s never died. I zoom through grit and neon as so many indecipherable screens bury their illegible lights into my head—faster than I can read.

Beedo’s Wild Ride 3.1

On Ando Prime, the Bendu monks worship to tunes older than the Jedi. Primordial ice sleeps in monastic trance. After the first lap a tent flap opens. A shortcut! Swerve left just after the starting line and shoot through a ventilation duct that keeps the prayers from going stale.

Aquilaris Classic 4.1

You’re not the only one in the crowd waiting for a contract faxed over from Canto Bight. Your kids begged to be picked up early from Montessori and watch today’s race. Between the eternal sunset tides and great public transportation, this planet is so much more family-oriented than Kamino. So much to do. The youngest holds the tablet as all three watch the pods zoom through glass tunnels.

ESPN droids capture the salt-puckered lips of racing men as they squint up to behold the sight of a leviathan: the Opee Sea Killer with its Alaskan snow crab legs, home-grown. And several circling Gungan submarines. It’s a rumor no one needs to confirm: candidate Binks sells contraband genomes.

Malastare 100 5.1

Subsonic jets roar over the mud and fungus with only an audience of dragonflies swooping over the gorge. Brass. Bypassing the engines of my eyes. There is mud. And under mud the stone trees sleep like golems with yellow eyes. Even when my eyes cannot remember the ink, they listen to those low vibrations and the branches rub. Where memories dart with mammalian paws leaving scratches in the bark. Syncopated staccato sounds: “Very fast, very dangerous.”

Vengeance 6.1

The all seeing, all knowing warden Fen Booda is a cop—the Republic that Master Windu wants me to protect runs asteroid prisons that must be filled. One cannot help but realize that to race is to be surveilled. To be judged for your place in time and space. To be followed. Deep in the core of this rock I fly by an energy beam conductor reminiscent of the Death Star’s: Big Fascist Energy.

Spice Mine Run 2.2

Joules. Juuls. Jewels. Today’s tickets, the mechanic said, were cheaper than deathsticks. Everyone is here, barely watching. I weave through empty boulevards then into another food chain where brontosauri and leeches and minecarts roam the red savannah. Magma mesentery. Hot Wheels corkscrews that can’t possibly meet industry regulations. At each lap I pass the guild boss, Groff Zugga, sitting on pressure ulcers and union dues.

2. Semipro Podracing Circuit

Sunken City 4.2

A consular cruiser soars overhead, leading to the question: are there Jedi watching this race? Down below the track title is a misnomer. Given the limitations of the N64, there’s more corrosion than coral. Geometry in need of anti-aliasing and an NPR report on the gross mismanagement of funds.

Howler Gorge 3.2


The lake, frozen over
Moloch-mouthed tunnels and rivet teeth
Jedi minimalism in translation
For corporate engineers
But I only have time to boost over snowy steel

Dug Derby 5.2

The first book I learned to read was Jar Jar’s Mistake, in the summer of ‘99. I would be going to a new school the next fall—a school where teachers would determine I was behind the rest of my second-grade classmates in reading. But for now, there on the couch, my abilities went unjudged. My half-sister and I sat tethered by the book held between us as our mouths made two engines hushing and shushing out vowels.

Scrapper’s Run 7.1

Imagine an anarcho-syndicate designing Sonic Adventure levels and then you can begin to imagine the tracks of Ord Ibanna. Here there is no track manager, no petty royalty, no feudal lord: only collective labor keeping scrap aloft. Only the thrill of the race. The thrill of entertainment after a long day’s work. Jupiter metabolized.

Zugga Challenge 2.3

After the Russian Revolution, writers speculated that Mars would be a planet of radical solidarity. Mon Gazza stands in mockery with its wormless steel and sand resold. Where machines have forgotten their masters and live only to eat and feed the earth.

Baroo Coast 8.1

Baroonda is all twists and turns like the two French horns bleating John Williams into your skull. The cochlea. Like a pair of time machines, they wait to send you back into deep forests. Volcanic soil. Ivies. Memories that scurry on mammalian paws as the branches shatter and fall to the floor. Making way for H-shaped shadows weighed down with robot conquistadors. The Trade Federation is here.

Bumpy’s Breakers 4.3

Crisp grey coasts bending so far from the city this might as well be $1.50’s worth of Cruis’n USA at the mall arcade.

3. Galactic Podracing Circuit

Executioner 6.2

Are any of the pilots illiterate? Perhaps some read so poorly they don’t understand the contracts they sign? So they race, one gig ahead of their debt. Nauseous with catecholamines, engine-deafened, they stand on the victory pedestal and read the sea of silent fans for creditors sliding through the crowd.

Sebulba’s Legacy 5.3

Why don’t my engines combust over these ponds of methane?

Grabvine Gateway 8.2

Star Wars locales have all the subtlety of Earth garlic-pressed through a coin sorter. On Baroonda, the high priestess Maja Fey’ja resides on the plateau city surrounded by swamps where she welcomes the visiting crowd to marvel at her primitive, volcanic world. I race through her land: by beaches strewn with Olmec heads, past Aztec pyramids, down Incan causeways. I tour a digital occupation where empire is older than Palpatine.

Andobi Mountain Run 3.3

After failing an exam on Neurology. After an email to meet with a dean. After a referral out to neuropsych testing. After a day spent testing math, reading, and reasoning. After titrating my midi-chlorians. After meeting with the school’s learning specialist, I was diagnosed with dyslexia in my third year of medical school. It’s a new lap record.

Dethro’s Revenge  7.2

What are we to make of the podracers—this bizarre coterie? They are ugly dolls. Too skinny, too gangly, too squat. Big-headed. Acne-speckled. Perhaps Lucas’ attempt at lumpenproletariat?

“I’m the only human that can do it,” says a boy who would grow up to commit his life to a xenophobic government. It’s likely Vader had some sway when the Empire banned podracing; he could then stamp out the receipts from his childhood. Force-sensitivity is useless without class-consciousness; even Anakin knew that, after he risked his life for an Order that couldn’t offer his community material gains.

Fire Mountain Rally 8.3

City, forest, swamp, mountains, volcano, sand, city

At this point in the Baroonda series, I can’t help but feel bad for the planet’s citizens. Stuck between seismic activity and settlers and in desperate need of a retcon. The blocky landscape could be N.K. Jemisin’s the Stillness (no I haven’t finished the trilogy). An opportunity to zoom over a broken earth in all its geo-active glory. A kernel for modders.

Mountains, sand, city, forest, swamp, mountains
City, forest, swamp, mountains, volcano, sand, city

The Boonta Classic 1.2

Saturdays are for podracing and standardized tests. I remember some multiple-choice exam one Saturday in fifth or sixth grade with the promise of being gifted that never came in the mail. Then of course, those long mornings in high school: always, always, always finishing last when all other pencils were down. A sentence or two left unread. But never enough to be noticed, not for a long, long time—

Monday the merchants sleep in then Watto and his tall-headed dinosaur friend meet for brunch. At noon I saw the email. The sun turns the screen grey as I try to reread and reread and reread the manual for engines that just won’t start while everyone races ahead.

This is the one track tied to the Star Wars franchise and I never got this far as a child.

4. Invitational Podracing Circuit

Ando Prime Centrum 3.4

This is all an icy dream: part Gondor, part skatepark. An immense Bendu city built on oil money and carved from concrete. Viaducts, ramps, and traffic circles. The monks really sold out.

Abyss 7.3

The track splits in two; the high path has no guard

If you fall from the top track you’ve already lost

Should you need another metaphor, there is a small gap in the chain link fence that lets you skip
an entire C-bend in the track

Not all the racers know where it is

The Gauntlet 6.3

Inmates pack the bleachers to watch the races on Oovo IV and remind me that entertainment is an apparatus for discipline. Boys who were dutifully taught by their fathers to hate the prequels grew up to be Kylo Rens. I went to prep school. There was very little that would have stopped me from debating my way onto a Star Destroyer towing a copy of Ayn Rand frozen in carbonite.

To win you have to serve the warden, but you don’t have to follow his path. The Gauntlet is a shortcut: a stretch of empty canyon outside the prison where the air is thin and meteorites lick the surface with red blister tongues. The silhouettes of gas giants and belts of debris dance overhead. It’s no clean slate, but it is the first place I see without walls.

Inferno 8.4

The track starts in a fiery belly with stone gates like so many pharyngeal arches. The Bowser’s Castle of another galaxy—some miscreant, obligatory N64 lava level writ into every publisher’s fine print—Or premonitions of Mustafar.

That’s the beauty of Star Wars: there’s always another sacred spot where the force squints through electron clouds and into our lives. Be it Dagobah, Ahch-To, Yavin IV. Some chthonic conflict seeping from pores and into the mind’s dream. Waking into daylight as white steam wrinkles the sides of the mountain. For a brief moment, my path steps outside the hospital where a blue morning hangs low in the sky. Reading the scene by the light of two suns.

Joey DiZoglio (@JoeyDiZoglio) drifts through urban space studying medicine, social justice, and video games. His game criticism has appeared in The Arcade Review, The Ontological Geek, and First Person Scholar, while his creative writing can be found at SPARTAN magazine and the 2017 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide.

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