"Confidence Game" is the first story of mine anyone has ever called "first class space opera," which makes me chuffed beyond belief. I'm glad that Chuck Rothman over at Tangent enjoyed the story and that he found protagonist Daryl Yagami "a smart and funny character who's always on top of things."
When Mike Resnick invited me to write an entry in Galaxy's Edge's Sargasso setting, I thought it would be fun, but I didn't realize by how much. Shared worlds are generally pulpier than stories accepted by most other short fiction venues, which would allow me to write more a more action-oriented plot that would be difficult to sell elsewhere.
I read through the preexisting Sargasso stories in preparation and by the time I finished I knew exactly what I wanted.
I wanted to write a stage magician in space, because it's an occupation we seldom see in a science fiction setting. Then I also made him gay and of Japanese ethnic descent, because there aren't enough lovable rogue characters in Western fiction that are gay or Asian, let alone both.
So I ended up with "Confidence Game," a story about an ex-con artist turned magician who gets dragged back into his old line of work in exchange for clearing his criminal record. There are a lot of stories about a criminal hired for one last job before he retires, but Daryl Yagami thought he was already done when his past catches up with him.
Daryl was super fun to write, especially as I built out his backstory so he would be capable of performing the tasks necessary for the plot, and of course, like any good stage magician, he has an assistant in the form of a Translator alien named Kappa. Though I was not able to work it into the story itself since it was rather extraneous, Kappa got his human name from Daryl, who named him after the Japanese kappa from folklore, since Translators look like tortoises (or turtles, which Daryl figures are close enough).
Probably one of the most entertaining things about writing a magician is that Daryl is allowed to pull off some crazy sleight of hand that might be questioned if another character was doing it, but it's no more outrageous than we might see a live magician perform on stage. Just because the story is set in the future doesn't mean that old art forms have disappeared!
Also, having Kappa in the story not only provides Daryl with a friend who is (mostly) in the know, but it gives him someone to play off of. I don't think "Confidence Game" would work as well without him, as Daryl spends so much time lying left and right about who he really is and what he's really doing. Kappa serves as the anchor for the audience that makes Daryl sympathetic, and my beta readers loved him.
"Confidence Game" is still free to read at Galaxy's Edge from now until the end of February. Though it's part of a larger series, it should still be readable by anyone hankering for some espionage action in a space opera setting.
Music listened to while writing: Selected tracks from the soundtracks to Magic Kaito 1412 (anime) and Liar Game (Japanese live action drama), and "One For the Money" by Escape the Fate. "Confidence Game" had a long brainstorm period so it ended up with more music than normal for a short story. If you like club music, Daryl's dance theme is "Here Comes the Hotstepper (Yuksek remix)." Not that this story has any dancing...