Duet for Tenor and Transradial Orthosis

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Duet for Tenor and Transradial Orthosis is a story written by shukyou and illustrated by Lord Mune. It ran in Issue 29 and can be found at s2b2.livejournal.com/168145.html and shousetsubangbang.com/mirror/duet-for-tenor-and-transradial-orthosis/.


A man with a metal arm and a man who builds airships somehow manage to have an unsterotypical steampunk adventure.

The first thing I noticed were his hands, which were stained beyond all washing by brown-black grease hiding in the creases of his knuckles and beneath what little of his fingernails hadn't been bitten down to the quick. They were delicate, though, I could see by the way that he set his glass on the bar and ran his fingertips around the damp rim where his mouth had just been; he touched it like he'd touch a lover, I thought, long before I knew he'd never in his life touched a lover that way. The scent of new money rolled off him, not in that flashy, obnoxious way tasteless barbarians turn gilded lilies with a few extra notes in their billfolds, but like a man who'd come to enjoy all the things that wealth could get him but still didn't feel like he fit in any of the places you had to go to get those things. He waited until the starched-collared bartender had wandered his way to the other end of the bar before inclining his head in my direction and saying to me, "I'll buy you a drink if you let me see that arm."

From fail-fandomanon.dreamwidth.org/: "guy who flirts with everyone/strong silent type. steampunk setting with some self-irony?"

S2b2warning.png Content Warning: Injury, Surgery

The author wishes to note that this story contains some sensitive material, including (not-too-graphic) descriptions of injury and orthotic surgery.


This story has no connections to other stories or universes.

Related Links[edit]

This story has been featured on Goodreads as a weekly group read and on its own page.

Author's Notes[edit]

First off, I have to thank beeblebabe profusely for this one, she was the brainstorm behind Gus, and anything truly excellent that Gus says, you can bet it probably originated from her awesome brain. (She's also responsible for half of the original, years-ago fanon that spawned this, and if you can figure out what that is, I'm impressed!)

I had difficulties getting Gus' voice in my head (mostly because I kept hearing him as George Carlin, for ... reasons), and he eventually wound up sounding like Julian Rhind-Tutt (the one on the left), because I was looking for a gentle British tenor, and most of the British tenor voices that I could think of were manic British tenors, and that's something else entirely.

My knowledge of opera is not particularly sophisticated, but I get by. Just in case opera isn't your cup of tea, here's the cheat sheet for what got in the story.

The title was very nearly 'Che gelida manina', or 'what a cold little hand', the title of a somewhat well-known aria from La Boheme -- and I probably would have gone with it had the title of my last story not been impenetrably in German. Thus, I went weird.

Gus' mother is named for Beverly Sills, the beautiful bel canto soprano, who was in fact very well-known for singing Violetta, and who was also awesome enough to be on the Muppet Show.[1] I couldn't find a recording of her singing Un bel di (from Madama Butterfly, an opera that's spectacular musically but pretty dang racist in execution), but here's Maria Callas, who's also drop-dead amazing. The bit of La traviata that Gus sings during the operation can be seen at the end of this. And Papageno is the (male) bird-catcher from Mozart's Magic Flute![2]

And finally, as for art, a million billion thanks go to sukiyakii for going above and beyond with this project, and with such enthusiasm! Really, she's responsible for so many things about Enzo's arm that I never would have thought on my own, and you can see a great many of them in her design. Little things like the fingerprints? Would never have thought of on my own. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why collaborating with an awesome artist is awesome. Brava, brava! And roses thrown on the stage!

(from ladysisyphus.livejournal.com/723183.html, where sketches can be found)

External Reviews[edit]

  • boysinourbooks.com/2014/02/06/review-bodies-in-space-duet-for-tenor-by-shukyou/
  • http://whitmans-sampler.tumblr.com/post/86481215399/duet-for-tenor-and-transradial-orthosis-shousetsu
  • http://futuere.livejournal.com/12336.html:
    Adult. ~22 900 words. I’m going to warn for vivid descriptions of medical surgery in Part 2.

    The story opens with a man drinking alone at a gentlemen’s club. He has a metal arm which chronically pains him, and it’s revealed that he is the subject of a scandal which is also the source of his injury – we don’t find out exactly what happened until later on. Then the man meets an engineer who offers to build him a better arm.

    Absolutely brilliant use of first person, gorgeous and moody writing. Have you ever read Gin Hale’s ‘Wicked Gentlemen’? shukyou’s prose style reminds me of the first third of WG, the section from melancholy Belimai’s POV – the best part, in my opinion. Part 2 signals a tone shift; it’s lighter, more humorous, and features one of the best seduction sequences I’ve had the pleasure to read. From memory, there are about four or five illustrations interspersed through the text, and they are beautiful.