Agent of Change (it says here) was completed in October 1984. It was acquired by Del Rey Books in December 1986, and published on February 1, 1988.
That’s like. . .wow. Written thirty years ago.
According to this list here, 1,496 science fiction and fantasy novels were published in 1988. Lee and Miller were responsible for two of those — Agent, and Conflict of Honors (completed in 1986, a mere 28 years ago).
Now, what you need to understand about Life, and Science Fiction, and All, back thirty years ago, is that. . .Things Were Different. It’s rather amazing, how many things/ideas/cultural norms have changed in a mere thirty years, including science fiction, how it was written, and who it was written for.
The happy proliferation of women kicking ass that we enjoy today; stories of strong relationships between passionate equals. . . that’s a recent development. Thirty years ago? We didn’t have that.
We were starting to have it. Lois Bujold had already published Ethan of Athos, Shards of Honor and Falling Free (among others, but those especially), by the time Lee and Miller got their break. And of course, Anne McCaffrey had been doing her particular thing since 1967.
What Agent of Change, and Conflict of Honors were, back a quarter-century ago? They were ground-breaking.
And the thing is? We meant to do it.
We meant to tell stories about strong, capable, smart women. We meant to tell stories about men who weren’t threatened by strong, capable, smart women, and who were themselves strong enough to accept the vulnerability that comes with being in touch with their own emotions.
We meant, in short, to effect change.
We intended, ourselves, to be agents of change.
And! Because we were determined to write science fiction, we had to do all this, like Ginger Rogers, while dancing backwards, in heels. We had to write a science fiction adventure story that would appeal to the audience science fiction was at that time written for — that mythical fourteen year old boy.
On all those levels, Agent still succeeds.
There are car chases and gun fights and bar brawls and Interesting Aliens and All Kinds of Exciting Things Going On, and even a Girl In Trouble.
However. Miri Robertson is a self-directed woman who is more than capable of taking care of herself and, as needed, her less-than-completely-sane partner, and the other women in the book are equally powerful: Suzuki Rialto is the senior commander of a mercenary unit; Liz Lizardi is retired from the same business. Even the daughter of the local mob boss has moxie and self-worth, and, frankly? Angus is not gonna be wearing the pants in that family.
And the struggle of Miri’s less-than-completely-sane partner? Is the struggle for his integrity, and his soul.
So, my thoughts upon reading the child of our youthful ambition? Am I ashamed of it? I am not. Do I think we could have done better? Not at the time.
I think Agent still stands. Yes, it was written thirty years ago, by young and possibly too earnest writers. And, if it’s no longer a subversive work; it still stands as an adventure story, with heart.