So, Today I Read Agent of Change

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.

. . .If you’d like to read Agent of Change, you may download it, for free, from the Baen Free Library or from Amazon.


17 thoughts on “So, Today I Read Agent of Change”

  1. I read Agent of Change almost 20 years ago, and I enjoyed it, and the characters, tremendously. It was the second Liaden book I’d read, the first being Local Custom, followed by the one with Shan and Pricilla, followed by Plan B, followed by Scouts Progress, Carpe Diem, etc. Once I started reading your work, I couldn’t stop. The characters and their world were just so compelling, so real and fascinating, that I had trouble believing they were fictional (and I had book hangovers after every one of them…I just mourned that I couldn’t go to Liad and have a cup of tea under tree).
    All that goes to say, I am not in the least surprised that Agent of Change still holds up after 30 years. It will, in my opinion hold up well after 100 years. It is what all classics are, a timeless work of written art.

  2. I read Agent of Change and Conflict of Honors back in 1992 or thereabouts. I remember nearly knocking over a book shelf leaping around in joy (1997? maybe?) when I found Carpe Diem in a used bookstore; I hadn’t even known it existed.

    I have often made this challenge to people “Buy the first three books, and if you don’t like them, I will buy you any three books you want….”

    To date: I have purchased exactly 0 other books for people.

  3. I am ashamed to say I didn’t know Agent of Change originally came out in 1988 (which is the same year my first book came out and probably explains why I wasn’t prowling bookstores looking for new writers to read.) ANYWAY…when I DID find it, some years later, I fell upon it with glee and delight. And I still re-read it, not just it but the others as well; they’re among my comfort books. It will go on. They will go on.

  4. I cannot begin to tell you how many times the original three books have been read in my family. Mom’s original copies fell apart and had to be held together by rubber bands. When Meisha Merlin reprinted them, we bought 5 copies of each book as they came out. One for each family member who was reading at the time and an extra for the local library. We’ve since bought copies for the kids so they’d leave their parents copies alone. Three generations of Liaden fans.

  5. I first read Agent of Change in 1988 and I re-read it (the entire Liaden Universe collection actually) at least every two years. It is a perennial favorite!
    My husband was introduced to it when I met him in 1999 and promptly hunted down a replacement copy of Conflict of Honors to replace the one I had lost somehow (no mean feat back then!). Now he also re-reads on a regular basis.
    I finally got my sister to read Agent of Change when it became available for free from Baen and, upon finishing, she promptly went and bought all the other Liaden Universe books. Another convert!!

  6. I first read Agent of Change sometime in the 1990s. I can’t remember when, because those were the days of working long hours and having a traveling husband and two small children. It’s amazing I found time to read at all! But like others, these books (Conflict of Honors and Local Custom right along with it) are ones I reread regularly.

    I bought all of the Liaden books on Audible when they came out last year, using my whole year’s allowance. Such fun to listen to them on my long rides in the car, too.

  7. I fell upon “Agent of Change” when it came out and devoured it with glee, did the same with “Conflict of Honors”, still have the original copies only because I bought duplicates to lend. I reread them with pleasure, starting the whole series over about once every several years (or rereading parts when a new book issues). And, while I was recently recovering from hip surgery, my daughter, who was babysitting me and had never read the books, got hooked and read all of them, except the last one which she took home with her to finish. You have no apologies to make. This is a wonderful series.

  8. I got some of the chapbooks from a friend of mine who also loved Lee and Miller (and sadly, died). I then collected the rest in e-books. I have been re-reading the entire series starting with Crystal Dragon this past few weeks. I cannot tell you the regret that I have that Dragon Ship is the last book in the direct line — I finished it last night and was so sad!

  9. I was late to the party, I discovered the books in the 1990s. But I made up for it I think? I liked the omnibus edition well enough to put my money & talent behind evangelizing for it. Still feel the same way. Don’t have the venue anymore, but that hasn’t changed my feelings. It was great to read about a woman who was neither a full-flown b*i*t*c*h or wimp. It was wonderful to read about a man who was able to feel something other than testosterone!

  10. When I first read Agent of Change in 88 or 89 I was amazed that anyone wouldn’t want to read it, but the book that really spoke to me was Conflict of Honors. I go back and read these stories every year or two, and would do so more often if I wasn’t reading other stories you’ve written. Thank you.

  11. I love this book! Thank you so much for writing it! I was 30 when it came out and it gave hope. You guys ROCK. peace to you, Betsy

  12. I was very lucky. I was working at an upscale mall outside Baltimore in 1988 and met Sharon when she came into the store looking for shoes. We started chatting and she told me and she and her husband had just published their first novel, Agent of Change, and were going to be at the mall that Saturday doing autographs. I came and picked up the novel and fell in love with it and with the Liaden universe. I have introduced my girlfriend to the series and she now loves them as much as I do.

  13. Thank you so much for your future vision and imagination !! Like many of these commenters,I love your writing. I place “you” among my favorite top 3 authors (Ann McCaffrey [so sad!] and You and Laurell K) and keep you in a special separate stack so you don’t get buried. Discovered Carpe Diem first in my 30s…have reread the original books 3 times, and starting a 4th,since I just bought the newest 3…Thank you again and keep them coming!!

  14. Lawrence Schoen recommended your books to me, last year at ConFusion 2013. I went home and followed his advice, but I made a mistake — I went to and bought the five-book Korval’s Legacy Collection (which wasn’t the mistake) and *began* by reading the one which was earliest in chronological order within that collection (Local Custom) (which *was* the mistake).

    I wish I’d read Agent of Change first. It shattered me to get attached to Er Thom and Anne and then find out in Conflict of Honors that both were dead. *Assassinated*, in fact.

    I persevered, nevertheless, and devoured the Liaden Universe in one mad, undisciplined gulp, every novel, every chapbook, one after another, like potato chips. A little too fast, undoubtedly, to fully absorb some of the finer details, because I was still rather confused about the whole “they all came from another universe” thing when I met you in Philadelphia during the Trade Secret book tour.

    Now I hawk your books to everyone I know, my most notable success in that venture being my husband. I figure, all I have to do is get a vict-//// er, prospective reader to download Agent of Change and Fledgling. (free books! free books! who can resist?) The quality of the writing does the rest.

  15. I too came late to the party, having been directed to the Liaden Universe some time after 2004, but OH, what a party it was. And it still is, to my delight. I am very seldom a re-reader, but I revisit memorable scenes and lines in my head quite often. Bless you both for what you started so long ago, as well as your determined efforts to keep the fires burning for all of us lucky enough to have found you, even belatedly.

  16. Sharon I think Andre Norton’s first novel with the leading character being a woman would have been in 1964 Ordeal in Otherwhere. Now you delightful works of course came to my notice and into my library in 1988. 🙂

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