Saturday, September 18, 2010


The long-awaited (by me, anyway, if no one else) sequel to my 2005 sci-fi-comedy Virus! is now underway!

In Antisocial!, it is five years later, and the Elite Computer Virus Task Force has been shut down. General Armstrong 7 and his new wife Mellory--young, attractive, with an IQ of 900 and a prehensile tail--has launched an initiative to unite the inhabited planets of the galaxy. Complicating matters, someone is launching surprise attacks on trading vessels. Who would be so rude...and why? Could it have something to do with the new galaxy-wide social-media network? Really? That's the premise? Okay...

Recalled to Earth from his home planet, extraterrestrial shapeshifter Zev Zyzzyx, his wife Eep (and pet Astra) seek to get to the heart of the matter. Or at the very least, the liver of the matter.

Meanwhile, speaking of livers, Dr. Pock and the robot Jet accidentally fall into a "wanderhole" and randomly travel the galaxy, meeting a planet of fun-loving, proper-noun-hating beings whose culture parallels Earth development only in the case of the English language and Journey songs; the Monk Mimes of Mellitus and their infamous "walking vegetables" and heady eggplant wine; and the denizens of 0100100100 IV, a planet of Luddite robots. Will they make it home...and, come to think of it, why would they want to?

Chapter 1 is below.

Virus!, meanwhile, is now available as an e-book via the Apple iBookstore for the iPad; as an e-book for the Amazon Kindle; and, of course, in good old-fashioned print.


A Novel by Richard Romano


The marble spacecraft glided silently through space, like a lead hockey puck sailing across a starlit beach in slow motion. It passed close by a few outposts and deep-space convenience stores, and watchers seeing it elegantly drift by gaped in awe. It lacked the gaudiness that so many spaceships possessed; indeed, this craft had a certain baroque elegance. Unlike the typical outer space cruiser, with headache-inducing arrays of blinking, flashing colored lights—most of which clashed harshly—this craft had a bare minimum of illumination; nothing colored or flashing, just simple white lights at various intervals around the center of the craft, only what was necessary to comply with outer space navigation regulations, as well as highlight the inlaid goldwork and gargoyles that decorated the circular hull.

To those on board, it was the equivalent of late night, and Tharbax Cannuutuu was strolling down the carpeted corridor toward what on any conventional ship would be considered the bridge, but on Canuutuu’s ship was called the social director’s office. Canuutuu was between five and six feet tall, bipedal, and vaguely humanoid; kind of like any castmember of Jersey Shore. His hairless skin was the color of a good fifteen-year-old Scotch, and his wrinkled three-fingered/one-thumbed hand gripped a snifter of Arcturan brandy. He walked into the office and settled into a Queen Anne chair mounted atop a marble podium. In front of him, two secretaries sat at Victorian desks entering diary logs, checking supplies, and piloting the ship. The leaded-glass viewscreen on the wall displayed the view ahead—deep space.

Tharbax was the Host of the Gadabout I, the flagship of the Aldeberan VI social scene. Often voted as “the most hospitable planet in the galaxy,” Aldeberan VI’s space program was launched to travel the galaxy and make contact with other races and species by means of parties and soirées. In fact, Aldeberan VI’s engineers spent decades perfecting a staggeringly tiny yet immensely powerful engine simply so the ship could have more space for ballroom dancing.

“Mr. Spuumantii,” said Tharbax, swirling the turquoise liquid in his snifter, “what is our canapé count?”

The secretary to Tharbax’s left consulted a parchment ledger. “We are down to fifty sklorm rolls, seventy-seven fried mostancho flowers, and we are completely out of shrimp rings. We cannot handle another party without replenishing our reserves.” There was a barely perceptible tone of panic in his report.

“He’s right,” said the other secretary. “And the Master of Crudités reports that we are fresh out of...well, fresh vegetables.”

“I see,” said Tharbax. “How close is the nearest catering planet?”

“Within five light years,” said Spuumantii. “At maximum amble, we should make it in less than two Aldeberan days.”

“Excellent. Please set course for it.”

“By all means.”

The ship veered slightly and continued its travels through the inky blackness.

“Gentlemen,” said Tharbax, rising from his seat, “I think I shall call it a night—“

He was interrupted by a violent lurching of the craft.

“What the devil was that?” asked Tharbax.

“I don’t know,” said Spuumantii. He picked up the receiver of an antique telephone and dialed 0. He listened for a moment. “Apparently, we are under attack.”

“Attack?” said Tharbax with no small amount of incredulity.

The craft lurched again, knocking Tharbax back to his seat. He nearly dropped his snifter. Plaster dust rained down from the ceiling. The main viewscreen went blank.

“Where’s the lieutenant sous chef? Get him on the speaker, please.”

“Right away.” Spuumantii’s partner, Caastuulii, flipped some crystal knobs on the desk in front of him. From a large, scalloped gramophone horn, the tinny voice of the lieutenant sous chef could be heard.

“Tharbax! We have sustained serious hits to the dorsal and ventral portions of the hull.”

There was another, more violent lurch. The chandelier above Tharbax’s chair swayed violently back and forth. Tharbax regarded it warily, and stood up to move from beneath it.

“How very rude,” said Tharbax. “Who’s attacking us? And why?”

“We do not know,” said Spuumatii. “The sensors are out and the screen is nonfunctional.”

“Well, then, could someone please look out a window?”

There was silence for a moment, then the lieutenant sous chef came back over the gramophone horn. “It’s the Ziij. I recognize their warships. A most inelegant design and their food synthesizers are appalling.”

“So I’ve heard,” said Tharbax. “Why on Aldeberan VI are they attacking us? We’ve had no contact with them in years.”

“And they know we have no weapons,” said Caastuulii.

“Well, except for that Antarean wine someone gave us. That could be considered a weapon, but we would never even think of serving it to the Ziij.” Tharbax thought for a moment. “Spuumantii, send a message to the Ziij flagship.“

“Right away.” He flipped a knob and a sheet of fine notepaper slid out from a slot on the desk. He took a fountain pen from its holder and glanced back at Tharbax in readiness.

“Dear Sir,” dictated Tharbax, as Spauumantii write in a flowing, elegant hand. (Inhabitants of Aldeberan VI were also known for their excellent penmanship.) “I am Tharbax Canuutuu, of the Aldeberan Canuutuus. It has come to my attention that a fleet of Ziij warships is firing upon the Gadabout I, and I’m afraid I find this most unacceptable. Please discontinue at once, or I shall be forced to seek retribution. As you well know, we are not a violent race, but I must warn you that unless this attack ceases, I will send a sternly-worded letter to the Grand Exalted Leader of the Ziij.” He paused for a moment. “Spuumantii, please be sure to capitalize the title ‘Grand Exalted Leader.’ He’s rather picky about that.”


“Thank you. Now, please deliver that immediately.”

Spuumantii folded the sheet of paper into an envelope, addressed it, and affixed the proper postage. He inserted the letter into a mail slot in the underside of his desk. There was a soft thoonk as it was pneumatically sucked into the bowels of the craft. “Ready Postal Bay 5,” said Spuumantii into his phone. He nodded as he heard the confirmation in his earpiece. “Ready...and...mail.” He nodded again. “Thank you,” he said and hung up. “Message sent,” he said to Tharbax.

“Excellent, thank you.”

There was one more violent lurch which dislodged several of the wall sconces. They clattered to the oak floor. Tharbax winced as he saw several gouges appear in the wood where the sconces fell. All was quiet for a few moments. Tharbax looked at his secretaries expectantly. Spuumantii’s phone purred. He picked up the receiver and listened. “Tharbax, the attack has been broken off.”

“I see. I guess my letter had the intended effect.”

“No, actually, I’m sorry, but it appears that the Ziij ship refused delivery. They broke off the attack of their own accord.”

“I see. Well, as long as it’s broken off. What is our damage report?”

“Coming through now,” said Caastuulii, listening over his own telephone handset. “Minor structural damage...gargoyles C4 and D7 missing their heads...fuel line severed...we have only three hours of power left.”

“Is that all?”

“I’m afraid not....Severe damage to the wine cellar. We lost all the Orion reds.”

Tharbax collapsed back into his chair. “Oh, my God. Including...?”

Caastuulii looked back and nodded sadly.

“The ’56 Mintaka? It’s always the innocent who must suffer. This is a tragedy beyond all imagining. Spuumantii, what is the nearest planet?”

“Let me see...Earth is within a six-hour scampering.”

“Excellent,” said Tharbax. “I know someone there who will be able to help us plan our revenge.”


“I know, it’s rather gauche and all, but that ‘56 Mintaka must be avenged! Set course for Earth.”

“Anywhere on Earth in particular?”

Tharbax thought. “Yes. We need help with revenge and retribution of the most unspeakable kind. Set course for New Jersey.”

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