QSFer Kevin Klehr has a new bi sci fi book out:
In an age where everyone lives their lives through a screen, no one has more celebrity status than fashion blogger, Madeline Q. In a chance meeting, Tayler, loner and geek, 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 reality on Social Media Central.
TAYLeR Book One
Social Media Central Trailer:
THE ORIGINS OF SOCIAL MEDIA CENTRAL
Social Media Central was born over a few glasses of wine during a night in with a friend. Not long before, Facebook tried an experiment where they fed only positive posts to a number of people in their feeds. Others were purely fed negative posts. The outcome was that those who got Facebook’s positive vibes contributed with happy thoughts. Those whose feed was ‘glass half empty’ responded in the same way. While this posed ethical concerns about the way the social media giant was manipulating its clients, it was perfectly legal in those terms and conditions that we don’t read but click to say we do.
We talked about this the night of our get together, but we also discussed something that we’d become aware of – the beginning of a ‘disconnect’ in our society. The days of getting on the phone and talking for hours to a family member had been replaced with a quick selfie posted online to let others know said family member was still alive and happy. But in these posts, a picture isn’t worth a thousand words.
This conversation with our friend happened in 2015. Earlier that year my partner and I travelled overseas where a chat I had with a waiter in New Orleans left me baffled. He told me he didn’t trust news sources. I asked where he got his information from and he told me Facebook. I pointed out that Facebook was not a news source, but this idea that a social media platform was being mistaken for a news platform stayed with me.
As the year rolled on and we were back into our Sydney routine, people here were also switching off to important information. At the time we had a Prime Minister who did little in the way of running our country. Our debt increased. Money was taken from public schools and given to rich private schools. And laws were being passed so the rich could pay less tax. No one seemed to care. Odd for the country I grew up in.
So that night back in 2015 where we talked about all our concerns with our online world, was the same night a novel called TAYLeR was born. It was a chance to look at a society two generations ahead through the eyes of the only person not addicted to Social Media Central. It also gave me a chance to explore another aspect of social media that had fascinated me. The rise of the online star.
We were in New York for a few days during that same trip and inside every train carriage was an ad promoting YouTube. But YouTube was using its vloggers as the face of the company. These were home spun celebrities who had diarised their lives from their bedrooms and had scored hundreds of thousands of followers for their efforts. As someone who has worked most of my life in media, this was too delicious not to explore.
So in the novel, Tayler meets Madeline Q, a famous fashion blogger who throws parties with her equally famous friends, social photographer, Connor, and lover and blogger extraordinaire, Shaun. Those trying to up their status on Social Media Central pay to come to these parties just to take selfies to prove they were there.
After one draft of TAYLeR was written, an editor from a major publishing house advised me to change the title to Social Media Central so that readers had a clearer understanding of what the book was about. Back then, Facebook and Twitter didn’t have live video, yet I used the concept in the book. LOL was still popular and in the novel there’s a whole conversation centred on it. And a major plot twist has become disturbingly real.
That’s the thing with sci-fi. At one stage it will prove to be true but not in the way the author imagined. This is why the book is important to me. It’s a combination of observations and reflections on where I felt we were going when I started writing it over three years ago. It explores a dystopian future from the viewpoint of a time when social media was just starting to show its dark side.
“If this is our future, then we’re already dead.”
I usually sat alone to eat lunch, but this man insisted on talking to me. How dare he? This was my park bench, my place of solitude, even if others were around. I politely smiled and bit into my salad sandwich, yet he continued.
“In my day, we talked to people. We knew what our neighbors were up to. The fact that we even knew our neighbors is a concept lost on these jokers.”
I scanned the gardens. It was the same sight every day. People my age addicted to their mobile screens as if their whole world centered behind the glass face. Keystrokes and terse commands took the place of spoken feelings and thoughts.
“Smoke and mirrors for an electronic age,” I replied. I took another bite.
“What’s your name?” the man asked.
“Tayler. It was the name of a vlogger my mum liked.”
He reached out his hand. I placed my sandwich on the brown paper bag in my lap so I could shake.
“I’m Stuart, a relic of a bygone era.”
He wasn’t exactly a relic. To me, old men on the scrap heap spat bitterness and ignorance in equal measure. He did neither. He was middle-aged and had the gentle face of a charity worker. But he was far from needing charity himself. His white goatee was neatly trimmed, while his thinning hair could have been just groomed by an overpriced hairdresser. And his stylish knee-length burgundy coat could’ve had him walking into an advertising agency as either model or executive.
He peered at the soulless beings scattered through the park, all of them representing just one of a larger tribe. Their fellow natives supplied moments of importance on the devices, and at times, their own faces signaled their moment to shine. But a new comment meant the baton had passed to the next person who needed the spotlight.
“That’s why they like their small screens,” said Stuart. “It presents a world bigger than them, without needing the confidence to venture into that world. Look at them. The screens are smaller than the individual. Everything in perfect proportion.” He paused. “Where’s your small screen?”
“I use an old phone.” I pulled it from my shirt pocket. “I refuse to get involved with Social Media Central.”
“Wise man.” He pulled out his media device, also vintage.
“A time when a phone was just a phone,” I said.
“I told you I’m a relic from the past.”
“Please don’t change. My landlady is about your age, and she’s addicted to her cyberfriends.”
“What? Doesn’t she have real friends at her age?”
“She used to. I’d come home from work to the smells of her beef Wellington, her green curry, or some other culinary delight, knowing that within the half hour she’d be knocking on my door inviting me to meet some bosom buddy over dinner. And I’d return the favor. I dug out my grandma’s handwritten cookbook and tried something new. My landlady would bring down one of her cats, and I shared the evening with her while she gave me advice about money or love or something.”
“Love? With your looks, you don’t seem like a lad who needs advice on love.”
My cheeks felt warmer.
“Did your landlady break hearts?”
“She said she did, but I kept getting the impression that none of her lovers stayed around for long. We don’t do dinner anymore. We haven’t for two years.”
“Bloody Social Media Central. She lives on it. It’s her whole life. She’s part of a group that calls itself the Amazing Twenty. Twenty lost individuals who’ve never met but stay online for hours just to feel someone cares.”
“What about you, Tayler? Who are your friends?”
“I don’t know anymore. It’s harder and harder to connect. Social Media Central has taken away the few connections I had here and made them believe they’re part of that wider world you were talking about. So I sit watching old movies to pass the time. Movies that demand an attention span.”
“I hear you, friend. I hear you.”
People started chattering at the sight of a woman walking into the park. Her long red hair streamed like a waterfall down her neck, half covering the shapely mounds that heralded her arrival. The people of the park snapped her image as if their devices could capture true beauty.
“Madeline” they called, echoing her name around the park.
“Who is she?” I asked.
“A selfie, Ms. Q?” yelled one of her eager fans.
“Sweetie, I don’t share selfies.”
Groupies ran up to get a closer shot. One woman in a white shirt fainted in her boyfriend’s arms. He dragged her to a nearby bench and laid her down. A guy with rounded glasses, similar to mine, tried to plant a kiss on her cheek. She reached into her tiny handbag and pulled out a fan, swiping the air between him and herself. He pulled back and looked to the ground like a small boy coming to terms with adult behavior.
She then noticed me, so some of her devotees took my photo. Stuart gave me a wink as she strolled toward me.
“You don’t know me, do you?”
I shook my head.
“What a weird yet reassuring surprise.”
“As you can see, my fan base likes to go nuts.”
“It’s your outfits, Miss,” one cried. “I need to know what to wear before the season ends.”
Now that two of her best assets were in my face, I breathed in the scent of her black leather top. Small laces crisscrossed her cleavage. My wayward thoughts were interrupted when she placed her long-nailed finger under my jaw. She pushed upward, raising my head to study my face.
“I’m not that easy, sweetie, even with those that intrigue me. And trust me, you intrigue me. What’s your name?”
I mumbled, not making sense.
“His name’s Tayler,” Stuart said.
“Tayler, eh? I’m Madeline Q, queen of the universe.”
“And what a small universe that must be.”
“You tired old man, do you even know who I am?”
“The latest vlog sensation? The latest reality web-series loser? It doesn’t matter, princess. You’ll be forgotten by the end of the year.”
She still pushed my jaw upward. “You think I’m special, don’t you, Tayler? You may not know what power I have over these hordes, but let me assure you, I have power.”
“I can, um, I can see that.”
“We need to talk about this beard of yours. It’s shabby chic.”
“It’s short but not elegantly trimmed like the has-been’s next to you.”
“Let me guess, you’re about twenty-three?”
“I see, only ten years younger than me. Well, Tayler, the next time we meet, and we will meet again, I want you to wear a black T-shirt. This lazy checkered top is not doing your stylishly rough metro-beard any justice.”
She removed her finger and blew me a kiss. The park folk applauded, taking more snaps of us both. She presented me with a business card from her handbag, her name spelled out on the scarlet background in a classy black font I had never seen before. She turned on her heel and walked away. Others followed like kids drawn to a piper’s flute.
“Well, it looks like you’ve been touched by celebrity of some sort or another,” said Stuart. “But kids today celebrate the mundane so I’m sure her appeal has a shelf life.”
I nodded, more to shut him up than to agree. I read the small print above the phone number on Madeline’s card: Fashion Icon and Blogger. I then placed it carefully in my top pocket.
“What are you grinning about?”
“Stuart, I’m off to buy a black T-shirt.”
Kevin lives with his long-term partner, Warren, in their humble apartment (affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own ‘Emerald City,’ Sydney.
From an early age, Kevin had a passion for writing, jotting down stories and plays until it came time to confront puberty. After dealing with pimple creams and facial hair, Kevin didn’t pick up a pen again until he was in his thirties. His handwritten manuscript was being committed to paper when his work commitments changed, giving him no time to write. Concerned, his partner, Warren, secretly passed the notebook to a friend who in turn came back and demanded Kevin finish his story. It wasn’t long before Kevin’s active imagination was let loose again.
His first novel spawned a secondary character named Guy, an insecure gay angel, but many readers argue that he is the star of the Actors and Angels book series. Guy’s popularity surprised the author.
So with his fictional guardian angel guiding him, Kevin hopes to bring more whimsical tales of love, life and friendship to his readers.