I thought when I grew up I might become a thought leader.

You know, put on some eu-de-thought and take folk’s eagerly following thought on leads in a bunch for nice little drag around the park, before returning them to the owners’ heads, all relieved, exercised, happy, tired and ready for din-dins.

The only flaw in my plan seems to be getting the leashes to stay on. People’s thoughts seem to go where they will, despite my best efforts to drag them off to poop on the grass outside Councilor Onswud’s office.

This particular bit of inane insanity was brought to you courtesy of a young writer, who I asked why they were doing this? (Having in a fit of gullibility agreed to read some of their magnum opus.)

They told me they wanted to be ‘A thought leader’.

I smiled, wished them the best of luck, waved and walked the other way as quickly as I possibly could, heaved a deep sigh of relief and wiped my furry brow once I was safe around the corner.

It was of course a question asked because the ‘story’ in question was… a rather tedious recital of all the obligatory politically correct points, parroted by suitably politically correct characters chosen from the checklist and absolutely nothing else to commend them. There is of course an audience who want thoughts ‘lead’ (It’s a heavy toxic metal) in this fashion. And absolutely, the author should publish, and should be free to. I encouraged the author to do just that. They will probably nominate it for Hugo.

But for me it’s like cabbage.

It needs to quite well disguised before I eat it, and preferably in small quantities. It is, for me, anyway, unlikely to be the hero of the dish.

Which brings me around to yet another one of my silly stories. It’s what I do best, and I like to keep in practice. (Yes, one of my other games is obscure references to sf. It pleases me, delights a few readers and isn’t noticed by most.)

Once upon a time, not that long ago or far away, lived a few cooks who believed to the innermost core in the benefits of cabbage (there are indeed, some benefits. Many of which do not include being downwind.) In their busy little seaside town, where folk came to take a holiday, there were many eateries of various types. Indeed the food was very much a part of why people came.

The cooks inserted themselves into some of the eateries, and of course into the local town council, and cooked… and counciled (which is often rather like the aftermath of serving cooking but without any of the intermediate phases. Go straight to toilet paper, do no digesting or enjoyment.)

Now of course, their dishes all had an element of cabbage. Not everyone liked the cabbage, and some steered away from those dishes. But nothing loath, our brave cabbagers soldiered on, some moving into running restaurants, and needless to say, hiring more cabbage cooks. Of course some people just love cabbage. And a skilled cook can use a small amount of it in any number of ways, inoffensive to almost all, but the most sensitive super-tasters.

The town council made things… gradually more difficult for those restaurants did not have cabbage-obsessed cooks. It gradually got to the stage that if you wanted a job, cooking, you needed to profess a love of cabbage, and of course add it into any dish you prepared. This worked well in some dishes like Caldo verde – green soup, but alas, cabbage melba was not a success.

And as time went on, the town council, now entirely run by cabbagers refused entry and put out of business non-cabbage eateries. And gradually the restaurants stopped bothering with small amounts or disguise. Cabbage soup, without other ingredients, Stuffed cabbage was stuffed with cabbage, and any criticism of the cabbage flan or cabbage with cabbage ice-cream became punishable with a fine.

Needless to say, eating out in the town became something only hardened cabbage lovers enjoyed.

Other visitors didn’t. They didn’t even like being in the same town. They took their holidays in a neighboring seaside town, which flourished, just as the re-named town of Cabbage-On-Sea, wilted.

It was a pretty place and some well-disposed visitors suggested that a return to a menu at restaurants that wasn’t just cabbage (boiled, fried, steamed, pickled and raw) might bring the tourists back, and make the place smell less.

They were driven forth with hard words and harder sticks and stones.

Instead the cabbagers settled on trying to destroy the neighboring town, and, if that failed, repeat their takeover of Cabbage-On-Sea.

Because they believe cabbage is good for everyone, especially them.

And they never seem to learn about all things being good in moderation, and not in dessert.

If the story sounds familiar, it’s because it keeps happening. Books, news, countries, awards – always the same story. Only rather than cabbage, it is thoughts (you remember –those things which are led. Or lead (if they are heavy enough).

Writers are not thought leaders. They’re not even good thought-sheepdogs.

Yes, yes, occasional books do and will have a huge impact on the world. But really most people don’t pay to have their thoughts led, any more than pay to eat un-requited cabbage. Yes, of course there are a handful of people who will say that any book led them to think about xyz in such a way, and love the author for this (And as often as not, that wasn’t what the author meant). But mostly books are like the seaside town. We go there for a good time, to be comforted or relieved of stress or boredom of our lives. Occasionally we may come across a new idea (at least new to us) that says ‘shiny’ and we embrace it. But seriously, if your reason for writing is to lead my thoughts to a ‘better’ place… Work out what you’re saying about me, and why I don’t like it.

Who the hell are you to think I can, or should be, led?

Why should I follow you or your philosophy, you vain little pimple on the backside of irrelevance?

The willingness of the reader to be led, to admit they want to be led has to be major factor in whether people buy your book. Of course there are people who fit into the lost and needing leading. Or into reassuring ‘we are going the right way’ bracket. But for the rest of us… you need to disguise that cabbage.

And stop repeating the same mistake.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, with somewhat less cabbage, and almost no rat CHANGELING’S ISLAND is available for pre-order (which pushes my sales ranking up). The picture is a link that makes me few more pence. Yes. It is ‘YA’. The day I write something for a younger audience that I think isn’t worth reading with older eyes, is the day I quit. (So you can spend $6.74 and tell me it’s time)


  1. were you not the man, whom had one of his characters make achocal out of cabbage.
    (stares with mild amusement)

  2. I’d like to point out it’s probably not the kid’s fault. this is something that’s being pushed in the US schools right now. They’re asked to write essays about how they are “thought leaders” (rolls eyes.) The brighter kids just go along with it for the assignment and roll their eyes at home, but the earnest, hard working, well behaved kind (not like us or our friends) tend to swallow it, cabbage and smell and all.

    1. “Why I am X Improbable Thing To Be”? That’s the thesis? Probably with lots and lots of ideologically specific sauce? Shudder. I bet there’s a LOT of social pressure behind that one. “Everyone Is Special” is somewhat arguable, but it’s just physically impossible for everyone to be a leader.

      In my schooldays, the closest I got was “If I Were In Charge of the World.” I still have my fourth-grade binder that was to contain the eponymous poem, and I apparently wised up that if anyone were up to being in charge of the world it certainly wasn’t me, and so renamed it “A Perfect World.” Still something like “Imagine” as written by a capitalist grade-schooler, but at least I wasn’t pretending the utopia was my fault.

    2. So… instead of becoming leaders of men, they become leaders of thoughts. Why, there might someday be a whole army of thoughts! It’ll conquer the–


      Maybe not.

    3. The only thoughts that can be led are your own. Most of the time you see someone trying to lead other people’s thoughts they have to do a forced march…Bayonets affixed

    4. indeed the cabbage stench was strong with this one… Pure indoctrination and no joy in writing, and no joy expected of the reader either. Except perhaps a bit of smugness, perhaps.

              1. That’s probably the point.

                “I am so really really ridiculously good looking that not even BCGs can detract from my animal magnetism. Also, totes retro, which is totally ironic because I’m so progressive.”

      1. Basically? A con man. I’m serious. All propaganda has a bit of a confidence game to it, with the goal of leading the mark down the primrose path. The difference between con men and most writers of message fiction is that con men knows thoughts are enticed, not led, and acts accordingly.

  3. Cabbage isn’t that bad. (Not that good, either, mind.)

    But sauerkraut . . . when something starts smelling like that in my fridge, I throw it out.

    1. I can appreciate a good cole slaw (preference is for vinegar rather than creamy style) but despite German ancestry, sauerkraut is if not a crime, alarming close to one. My suspicion is that it was an early attempt at chemical warfare.

      1. So it works like this:

        When you see the starving barbarians coming, hide all the good food, but leave the sauerkraut where they can find it… it’ll convince them things are even worse in your village than where they came from.

        Oh, and be sure to dig a few extra latrines so you don’t come home to a mess.

          1. In a soup? Ah, yes, I remember being young and broke, and slicing cabbage in thin slivers to bulk out the ramen noodle soup.

            Let us never have to return to those days.

          2. It’s good on a reuben. It gives the sandwich just enough bite to be really tasty.

        1. You can have it! I like my cabbage opposite of how I like my potatoes. Potatoes should be hot (yes, that includes potato salad), cabbage should be cold – uncooked.

    2. Barbarians all. I rather like cabbage, properly cooked. And good sauerkraut. Thppppth. 😛
      But I also like a lot of other foods, and cabbage every day gets old quick.

      1. Isn’t “Thppppth” the sound caused by consuming too much cabbage? 🙂

        I will enjoy some good cabbage from time to time, usually red cabbage as a side dish alongside some good German food. Sauerkraut, OTOH…. ugh.

      2. Yeah, I like cabbage too. Also, brussel sprouts. Aff’s just introduced me to the Australian permutation of dim sum, which is… basically… a large pork and cabbage dim sum (those are the main ingredients), roughly the size of a golf ball, which has been steamed and then dipped in batter, and deep fried.

        It’s not a cultural appropriation either: the person who came up with it was a Chinese migrant who saw how Australians liked to buy food from stalls during their Australian footy games, and wondered what he could sell that would appeal to the Australian taste.

  4. Naturally, the ones who put cabbage in a spring-green salad or whatnot were told “wow, gold star, you’ve met the bare minimum of requirements for municipal health, did you want a cabbage cookie?”

  5. Love a good Reuben sandwich. Lots of crunchy, tasty sauerkraut. And kraut on a good hot dog, preferably Nathan’s, although the bun is important; if it doesn’t have the proper amount of self-respect, it disintegrates.
    But last year, I also found out that I loved sauerkraut omelettes, with bacon and cheese. SO good!
    If you haven’t been to ATH yet, Sarah says it’s blogger appreciation day, so: APPRECIATION to all the Mad Geniuses.
    And, in response to Christopher Nuttal’s most guest excellent column, I wrote this:

    1. Fry the kraut alongside the pastrami for your reuben sandwitch. Oh, what a difference it makes. And I thought I liked reubens before I tried it that way…

  6. I’ll eat your cabbage if you’ll eat my artichokes. (And I’ll come out ahead in that deal. Just the taste of artichokes makes me gag.)

    1. I am utterly bewildered by $HOUSEMATE’s claim to like the flavor of artichoke hearts. To me, they taste like whatever they’ve been bathed in. Might as well be eating rice paper.

      1. So there must be a genetic quirk in artichoke eating, too. (The thistle kind, not the sunflower kind, just to be very clear.) I adore artichokes. And while they do have a taste, it’s the way they react with saliva to change the taste of your saliva that’s the real treat.

        But you can have all my brassicas except cabbage, the only one I willingly eat, and I’ll have all your artichokes.

        We grow Jerusalem Artichokes. They grow anywhere. They grew in The Year Without a Summer. And they’re good for diabetics. And the diabetic is the only person in the house who likes them. Wins across the board.

        1. Yeah, Artichokes are my second favorite veg. It’s what they do to other flavors that is amazing. I grow the thistle kind. Don’t digest the other kind terribly well, although I quite like the taste in very small quantities.

        2. So there must be a genetic quirk in artichoke eating, too.

          Maybe? Mom liked them, but when we were growing up she’d always microwave them to get them hot and the smell… It wasn’t as bad as the paper mill 40 miles away, but it was close.

    2. But artichokes don’t taste like ANYTHING! They are just a scoop to put sauce on. Not that I’ve been a big artichoke eater. It’s just that there were two different periods in my life when people I hung out with served them with some regularity.
      And after you scoop the leaves in the sauce and slurp it off, you can put the artichoke leaves over your teeth and under your lips and smile at people. That’s pretty cool.

  7. I must confess to being rather fond of black bean and cabbage soup. As long as it has a good bit of ground meat and a rich flavorful broth of course. Have it three or four times a year when I’m near a certain restaurant that does it well. And then Jager Schnitzel with fried potatoes and red cabbage is also quite nice on occasion.
    But sauerkraut and kimchi, being a bachelor I spoil enough stuff by accident, why would i want to do that on purpose?

    1. Settle for less than “authentic” on both those counts. Pickling yes, fermentation no. Both your palate and your immune system will thank you.

      (I’m told that, in South Korea, the first kimchi of March has left many a hearty foreigner bedridden.)

      1. Pounded thin, breaded, cooked perfectly, then drenched in thick brown gravy. Side of crisp fried potatoes and a mound of tart red cabbage.
        Good stuff, of course our little community was blessed to take in a significant number of Germans immediately post WWII. Making rockets fly wasn’t the only skill they brought with them.

  8. I don’t want my thoughts led, I don’t want my consciousness raised, and my privilege ran off to the alternate universe where I am a mulch-millionaire, making it hard to check.

      1. You don’t want to check a privilege while they running. It’s very bad for their legs. They’ll stop of their own accord. And mulch was rather like the story.

  9. I’ve got some thoughts I’d like to lead those retards to. Like: gender IS binary, presumption of innocence, not everyone in the world is an idiot, and get out of my face.

      1. No, just that they usually pick a team when they’re kids and stay with it. There’s only two choices, when all’s said and done.

  10. Also, sauerkraut is the ambrosia of the Gods, but only with fine pork sausages. Add mustard, and POW, food fit for kings.

    Dammit, now I’m hungry.

    1. sauerkraut is the ambrosia of the Gods

      Well, maybe the demons got this one right. Maybe I need to add a pitchfork/trident to the cloven hooves, horns, and tail.

  11. Having just bought a house (and had the first calamity when the geothermal heat pump decided it was no longer going to heat or pump), I’m trying to be tight on the budget, and cut down on anything but necessities.

    You know, necessities like some peanut butter cookies from the bakery after finally jumping through all the hoops to get the car registered… and then finding out the front bumper, never having been in a state before that required a front license plate, neither had the fittings for attaching license-plate-holding screws, nor did it have access from the back to install nuts and bolts. That called for self-tapping screws and peanut butter cookies.

    The EARC sadly fell under “luxury”, but preordering Changeling’s Island? That falls under “I need to read good things in order to stay sane.” Thanks for writing it, Dave!

  12. I am willing to let certain authors lead my thoughts for a while. But it is a privilege you earn by providing both entertainment and good ideas. You earned it. Joe Random Author has not.

    In the Marxist faith artists are called upon to be agents of propaganda, same as in Plato’s Republic. It is a much more high status than being an entertainer under capitalism, which explain a lot about the mass media. Like most tenants of that religion, the only problem is it doesn’t work. Eric Flint understands that, which makes me suspect he is a heretic.

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