Ken Liu’s short story “The Literomancer” gets the award for best use of a live water buffalo. Lilly Dyer, a young American girl living outside a military base in Taiwan in 1961 is having a rough time adjusting to her new home. She jumps on a water buffalo and rides it into a nearby village and befriends not only the water buffalo but a boy her age and his grandfather.
Liu presents this part of the story with such charm and innocence. The relationship between Lilly and her new friends involves learning Chinese, eating new food and talking about American baseball. And Lilly continues to ride the water buffalo.
Not surprising, the super powers-that-be in the world destroy (and that’s the right word) this innocence and Lui masterfully moves from chldhood fun to horrific tragedy. In a biting bit of irony, Lilly’s father explains why the water buffalo has to find a new home:
“He won’t be happy. He won’t have a river to bathe in and rice paddies to wallow in. He won’t be free.”
On a side note, the title story of this collection gets the award for best use of an origami water buffalo.