by Kevin Klehr

Book Cover: Social Media Central
Part of the TAYLeR series:
  • Social Media Central
Editions:ePub
ISBN: 978-1-948608-37-4
PaperbackKindle

In an age where everyone lives their lives through a screen, no one has more celebrity status than fashion blogger extraordinaire, Madeline Q. And in a chance meeting, loner geek, Tayler, is introduced to her world of parties, fan worship and seduction.

But as his own star rises, Madeline Q is arrested for murder. There’s just one problem – there is no corpse. Tayler soon learns that fiction blurs with reality on Social Media Central.

Excerpt:

My landlady, Mary, wore a revealing white dress as she sat in front of her outdated computer. With her best years behind her, the frock could not save her fallen breasts from pressing against her desk for more support.One of her cats clawed at her bare feet, meowing as if it hadn’t been fed for days.

Before Mary noticed I was in the room, I went to her kitchen to find food. All I found was milk. A gluggy white custard splattered from the carton with a smell that could strip paint off a wall. I ran the tap and washed the evil mess down the sink.

“Who’s there?” Mary yelled.

“Only me.” I came out of the kitchen.

“Have you fed your cats lately?”

“I think so. Do they look hungry?”

“One of them was scratching at your feet a moment ago. Didn’t you feel it?”

She looked around. I pointed to the ginger furball that had wrapped itself around my legs.

READ MORE

“Oh. I’ll feed them in a second. I’m just looking through Tammy’s wedding photos.”

“Have I met Tammy?”

I peered at the screen. A man sporting shoulder pads danced with a woman wrapped in a dress so tight, it was begging for mercy. Both looked like casting rejects from a 1980s prime-time drama about rich oil barons. As Mary flipped through the images, I noted the guests were more engaged with their screens than the couple who brought them to this moment. But at least a few paid the bride some attention by snapping her picture.

“I’m sure I haven’t met her,” I said. “How do you know her?”

“We chat online all the time.”

“Yes, Mary, but how did you meet?”

“Right here, on Social Media Central.”

The reddish feline pawed at my jeans. “Don’t you think it’s time to feed your cats?”

“In a moment.” She closed Tammy’s social page and looked at the newsfeed of a handsome man thirty years younger. In the reflection from the screen, I could see her smile like a child who’d discovered ice cream, followed with concern as if the treat had melted. “Tayler, how did you get into my apartment?”

“The door opened when I knocked. You know, you really shouldn’t leave it unlocked.”

“I didn’t mean to. Why are you here?”

“It’s rent day.”

“Is it Wednesday already?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.”

“I’ll leave the money on your dining table.”

“Okay.”

I left and climbed the stairs, returning shortly with some leftover chicken I was saving for dinner. As I walked in, Mary danced in stilted moves as if she was communicating in Egyptian hieroglyphics to the delighted gent on her computer. She swung her head toward the door, and our eyes met. Hers widened.

“Oh, Tayler, have you met Bernard?”

I waved at the screen. “Hi, Bernard.”

“Hi, Tayler” came the voice from the tinny speaker.

“Tayler’s my tenant. He’s lived above me for years.”

“And how do you know Bernard?”

“Social Media Central,” they both replied.I accidentally bit my tongue.

“Bernard is a…um, what is it you said you were, Bernard?”

“A dentist.” He flashed his pearly whites.

“I see,” I said. “Are you going somewhere tonight, Mary?”

“No.” She looked puzzled.

“It’s just that you’ve dressed up.” With her face turned from the screen, she scowled at me. I handed her the plate of chicken. “This is for your cats.”

“My cats? Why would I need chicken, Tayler? I have plenty of food for my dear little ones.”

“Tayler’s right,” said Bernard. “You look radiant this evening, Mary.”

“Really? Oh, it’s just something I threw on. I wanted to look nice for my friends. At my age, I don’t get a chance to throw on a frock anymore.”

“Then maybe we should do dinner together?”

“Yes, we could mirror meal.”

“Mirror meal?” I asked.

“Really, Tayler, you’re so out of touch.”

“How about steak, mash, and gravy?” Bernard asked.

“Yes, I can make that. I’d light candles but I don’t think my camera works that well with mood lighting.”

“That’s fine. I’ll bring the music. I’ll make up a special playlist and stream it through as we eat.”

“Then it’s a date. How does seven p.m. tomorrow sound?”

“I can’t tomorrow, my love. I have another appointment.”

“Not another woman?”

“No, nothing like that. I’m overdue with my taxes, so I’m linking up with my accountant in the evening.”

“We can have a late supper.”

“No, let’s mirror meal on Friday. That way we both won’t be dateless over the weekend.”

“Sounds perfect.” She placed the plate of chicken next to the computer. “Tayler, why is your mouth open like that?”

“Sorry, I’m in shock. Let me get this straight. Instead of going out for dinner, you’re both cooking steak and mashed potato and eating in front of your computer screens. Oh, brother. Let me take an educated guess. You two have never met face to face.”

“Tayler, don’t be so rude,” my landlady said.

“That’s okay, Mary. My son, Mike, is just like Tayler. Out of touch with technological trends. No offense, Tayler.”

“None taken.”

“Mary, my darling, I have to go. Tammy is trying to get my attention.”

“I was just looking at her wedding photos. Put her through. We can both talk to her.”

“I can’t really do that. She’s marked her contact request as private. Between you and me, I think she married prematurely. There were already problems in their relationship, but she went ahead with the ceremony anyway.”

“I understand, my darling.” Mary lost her smile momentarily. “I’m looking forward to Friday.”

“So am I, my love.”

“Bye, Bernard, until—” Her cyberboyfriend disappeared.

“Oh, damn these bad connections. The government needs to get this right.”

I placed my hand on her shoulder. She didn’t respond. “So was it love at first sight?”

“Not quite.” She seemed oblivious to my sarcasm. “But I knew there was a special connection the first time we video chatted.”

“Has he met the Amazing Twenty?”

My hand slipped from her as she stepped forward. “Tayler, he came up with the name. Without him, I wouldn’t have met the others.”

“Has he got legs?”

“Tayler!”

“I’m just asking. I mean, have you ever video chatted with him doing anything other than sitting down?”

“I think so. Hmm.” She rested her finger on her chin. “Oh, Tayler, why can’t you just be happy I’m in love?”

“So, Bernard is the reason the Amazing Twenty exists. How did you find him?”

“We told you. Through Social Media Central.”

“Yes, but through which application?”

She beamed.

“Oh I see. Through Lover Net. Does he blog about his pursuits?”

“He used to.”

“Does he blog about you?”

“Sort of. He calls me the sophisticated lady in his posts.”

I tried to keep a straight face.

“Oh, Tayler, don’t rain on my parade just because I have someone and you don’t. Love will tap you on the shoulder one day. Isn’t that what I always say to you?”

I missed the landlady I used to dine with—the woman whose wisdom had turned to mainstream quotes since she discovered Social Media Central. I wanted to say, “Step into the real world,” but there was less and less real world to step into.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Harry Rey on Goodreads wrote:

I was drawn to this book because of the story and concept, and Kevin Klehr excels at crafting a fascinating look at life in the near future. Drawing on Orwell and the current, concerning state of social media in our modern life, he delivers a fast-aced, rip-roaring read you can't put down.

I loved the characters. They are interesting people in their own right and the very real parallels they have in our world. Their hot encounters, criminal capers and mash of a media-led murder trial draws you in and doesn't let go.

What really shines through in this book are the fascinating ideas Klehr explores through a multi-layered LGBT lens which doesn't often happen. It's a wonderfully done piece of LGBT sci-fi that really makes you think.

mousewife on Amazon wrote:

Dystopia hides behind the decadence of a world of social media, dominated by Social Media Central. At the center of it all, Madeline Q holds court, followed by the trendy and those seeking fame, yet she chooses the skeptical, questioning Tayler to be her companion and part of her clique. Tayler is sucked into Madeline’s world, yet he continues to try to shake things up, change things, not realizing how dangerous such endeavours are. For nothing about Social Media Central is what it seems and the lurking shadow of Government waits behind the glitz.

This evokes some of the classics by Bradbury, Orwell, and Huxley, which involved terrible totalitarian regimes, futures where thought is regulated, controlled, or discouraged. This particular story uses a more subtle, layered method to introduce the menace and peril of its society, a society which the modern reader can relate to only too keenly. What’s missing or absent in this world is revealed in bits and pieces from Tayler’s perspective or other characters’ unfamiliarity with things we take for granted, like books or schools. It was a fascinating read, depicting an often manic whirlwind of events in which Tayler undercovers the truth, layer by layer beneath Social Media Central. Just when things start to make sense, another layer is revealed. This society often seems shallow in its changing trends, yet it’s peopled with likeable characters and ones that grow more sympathetic as the reader becomes more familar with them. The villain, whom is far more erudite than certain real life public figures still represents an immature desire to control everything and everyone without assuming any of the responsibility that goes with it, an attitude which resonates with many a modern reader. For bringing all of these elements together in a fast-paced, intriguing read, I give this four stars.

Amos Lassen on Amos Lassen Reviews wrote:

Have you noticed how much of your life you live behind a screen? So much happens while we are on our smart phones, our tablets and our computers and now our watches (yes, I have one of those, too).

We are moving towards a world where actually meeting someone is a rarity. In that world, everyone connects via Social Media Central for their social interaction. Tayler, however, leaves his home each day to go to work and he does not have a personal computer. Events lead to his entering Social Media Central where he soon has quite a following. Tayler learns quickly that while new and intoxicating, this world is not all what it seems to be.

One day as Tayler is sitting on a park bench, a beautiful woman with a bunch of groupies carrying some kind of devices walks by and he is quite beside himself even though he has no idea who she is. This stuns the guy who happens to be sitting on the same bench. The woman is Madeline Q and she is so intrigued by Tayler’s ignorance that she gives him her card. Tayler’s phone is just a phone. He has no web connection and therefore no presence on Social Media Central. SMC has reduced the internet into one interface and portal.

The story is set in Astra City which is dominated by empty steel and glass buildings because most people now work from wherever and there are no longer any schools since education is online through instructional videos. People do not visit each other or share meals because they can now ‘mirror meal’ whereby they each get the same meal, connect and eat in front of their computers.

You may begin to wonder who is this Tayler and where does he fit into this story. He is an anachronism as a person who actually prefers real contact with people. However, he is mystified by Madeline and decides to go to one of her affairs. He learns that she is a fashion icon with a huge following and whatever she does or wears starts a trend. It does not take long for Tayler to become swept up in her lifestyle. But then, somebody dies and Tayler, Madeline and two others are implicated.

I must admit that the whole idea of a world run by the internet is totally depressing. I hate the idea of reading an ebook because I believe a book is meant to be held and cherished. I rarely agree to read something electronically and then only for a select few writers will I do so.

There is something way too futuristic and too didactic in a world where we know each other via icons. Nonetheless, after having a bit of a hard time getting into the story, I soon found this to be quite a gripping read. I am sad that the plot is plausible but I enjoyed the bold characters who really have no idea just how without power they are. This is a thought-provoking read even though I found it troubling. I felt that George Orwell was hovering above as I read the powerful social commentary presented here.

Until now I have known Kevin Klehr as an LGBT writer and it is nice to see that he has branched out (yes, there is bisexuality here but it is not the core of the novel) into a story that is both something of a mystery and a thriller. His writing is, as usual, pristine and engaging and while the basic idea of the internet controlling us is abhorrent to me, I did totally enjoy the read. Just the fact that I could become so emotional about what I read is the sign of a good writer.

Kirsty on Joyfully Jay wrote:

The vast majority of citizens in Astra City are addicted to the lives they have online in Social Media Central. Tayler, however, is not one of these people; he refuses to have an online profile and still watches old movies to pass his time, rather than sharing a mirror-meal with his latest cyberfriend. At least, that is until Tayler is spotted by Social Media Central’s queen and star fashion blogger, Madeline Q. One party later and Tayler is sucked into Madeline’s world and is on the payroll of Social Media Central’s leader, the Government. Tayler becomes a star in its ascendancy until the dead body of a young woman is found in the bathtub at another party he and Madeline have been paid to attend. Tayler, Madeline, and their friends, Connor and Shaun, immediately become suspects and Social Media Central takes on the role of judge and jury. Tayler has to keep his head to outwit the Government and attempt to uncover the darker aspects of Social Media Central.

Kevin Klehr’s latest release is a novel set fifty years into the future, yet it is the premise that interested me. I have lost count of the number of times that I have sat around a table with family or friends and we have all been on our phones rather than engaging in conversation. There is no doubt that we live in a digital era and there are positive aspects to that, but the power of social media in our lives cannot be denied.

In Klehr’s story, Madeline, Shaun, and Connor have all gained their notoriety and fame on Social Media Central: Madeline as as fashion blogger, Shaun by chronicling his sexual conquests on Lovers Net, and Connor by photographing their every move. Dressing in the latest fashion and attending the lavishly arranged parties has become their life and occupation. Here Klehr reflects so much of our contemporary reality with his fiction and it reminded me of the current fame of stars like the Kardashian family, who are supposedly able to break the internet with their posed selfies. Klehr’s imaginary world, run by Social Media Central, is so close to the lives we currently live that it is thought provoking and the power that the online world has in his novel is frightening and eye-opening, making the reading experience not just an escape, but a lesson for us all.

Social Media Central does twist and turn, uncovering moments of concealed power and darkness. The story has been previously compared to George Orwell’s 1984 and the parallels between them cannot be ignored. I also find it interesting that Klehr would have written his novel before the latest scandal with Facebook and there is a strong case here of art imitating life.

However, I did have some difficulty with Social Media Central and this had to do with Klehr’s characters, in particular the protagonist, Tayler, who I did not find at all likeable. Admittedly, he is the main questioner of the Government and the power of the social media giant in the lives of those around him. For Tayler, this begins with his landlady who is losing her grip on reality and spending all her time talking to her cyberfriends. However, as soon as Tayler meets Madi, Shaun, and Connor, he appears flattered and happy to be drawn easily into their world; his doubts, to some extent, become replaced by his assimilation. I am not sure whether the fact that Tayler is such a fickle character was intentional on the part of Klehr, but I was not convinced by Tayler’s multiple and contradictory responses to situations, which included his anger at his landlady, his sycophancy, and his supposed rebellion.

I may have found Tayler uninspiring, but the effect he has upon people he comes into contact with is intriguing in terms of the story. It is Tayler’s idea of people engaging in “Movie Night” that contributes to the Government’s intervention, but when we find Tayler, Madi, and Connor in dire trouble, Klehr ensures we fully understand the full force of Tayler’s influence. I liked the fact that we have read the novel questioning the quality and relevance of relationships in Tayler’s world, but we are left with the message that no matter what, friendship is abiding and strong.

There are some interesting themes running throughout Social Media Centraland though there were areas of the story that did not entirely satisfy me as a reader, I would recommend the book.


About the Author

Kevin lives with his husband, Warren, in their humble apartment (affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own ‘Emerald City,’ Sydney.

His tall tales explore unrequited love in the theatre district of the Afterlife, romance between a dreamer and a realist, and a dystopian city addicted to social media.

His first novel, Drama Queens with Love Scenes, spawned a secondary character named Guy. Many readers argue that Guy, the insecure gay angel, is the star of the Actors and Angels book series. His popularity surprised the author. The third in this series, Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes, scored a Rainbow Award (judged by fans of queer fiction) for Best Gay Alternative Universe/Reality novel.

His novel, The Midnight Man, won the Fantasy category in the 2021 Gay Scribe Awards and won in the LGBT category of the Paranormal Romance Guild Reviewer's Choice Award. It also was Runner Up at the Rainbow Awards in the same year his novella, Winter Masquerade, scored an Honourable Mention.

So, with his fictional guardian angel guiding him, Kevin hopes to bring more whimsical tales of love, life and friendship to his readers.



Other Books By Kevin Klehr