Founders’ Day by Arzhang Zafar

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On a day like any other, Neil receives a devastating communication: he has been selected to participate in his town’s annual Founders’ Day Game, a compulsory fight to the death between two citizens. Will Neil stoically face near-certain death, or will he manage to find someone else to take his place?

The third volume in the BRUISER Zines series, Founders’ Day is a short story by the Philadelphia writer Arzhang Zafar, whose previous work can be found in BRUISER and Apocalypse Confidential. Printed and assembled in Baltimore with art by Jun Wilkinson, this limited edition zine is a pitch-black social satire of the arbitrary violence endemic to fascist culture.

Founders’ Day conjures an Omelas-dystopia through the lens of the now infamous tweet, Why do we…never question if the child has bad vibes?” Arzhang Zafar’s dry wit paints the unflattering image of a man, more cockroach than human, desperate to survive within the very community which has nominated him to fight for his life. This dystopic satire explores a rampantly unjust system of capital punishment, where the reader reckons with a disturbing question: is it carceral-minded to be happy when your personal enemies meet an untimely demise?”

 — Jane DIESEL

Zafar’s wit trickles into plain language at a methodical pace. You can sense him smirking as brutal absurdity first punctures the seemingly banal suburban world of Founders’ Day, inducing the shock-turned-odd-bliss of the best surreal fiction. If someone told me they’d run out of Kafka to read, or wanted something DeLillo-y they could start and finish on their lunch break, I’d tell them to read this.”

 — Jake Symbol

Like Clive Barker’s In the Hills, The Cities had a baby with The Hunger Games and then the baby was raised by The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, Arzhang Zafar’s Founders’ Day explores how our desire to be loved is nothing more than a symptom of our fear of death, and how this same love is used as a weapon.”

 — David Simmons

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