Zisk Magazine is like a relic from a different era, in the best possible way, the era in question being the pre-internet golden age of the zine. You see, kids, back in them days, you couldn't just hop on your computer and share your thoughts with the world immediately using your blogs and LiveJournals and whatnot. You had to assemble these thoughts in print form using glue and staples and lots of stolen time/supplies from an office copy room, then try to hawk your homegrown publication at the local indie bookstore or neighborhood basement show.
Zines were once a staple of the punk rock world, sharing the author's local scene with the world at large. The folks at Zisk had a different idea: Apply the zine aesthetic and DIY ethos to the world of baseball. Their first issue came out in 1999, back when the idea of writing about sports with a personal slant was virtually unheard of and even Bill Simmons was but a mere gleam in Larry Bird's eye.
Even as the world of sportswriting has grown increasingly digital and immediate, Zisk has continued to slow-cook its releases, publishing exclusively in print two times every season. In so doing, they've been able to curate and publish pieces that can be more heartfelt and laugh-out-loud funny than the average baseball blog fare. If you weren't on board from the beginning, the best pieces of Zisk's first 14 years are now available in a collection called Fan Interference, with a brand-new forward from Cardboard Gods author Josh Wilker. AA readers will be happy to know that many of the chosen pieces are Mets-related, but all are great.
Zisk co-editor Steve Reynolds (a Mets fan himself) was kind enough to spare a few moments out of a lengthy book tour for a quick Q&A about Zisk's punk rock roots, what print can do that the web can't, and why Scott Stapp and the Marlins are made for each other. (Check out the book tour schedule here to see if Steve and co. are coming to your town.)
When I started handling the layout with issue #4, it started looking more consistent and "professional" but we never looked to make the content that way. When we launched our website (Ziskmagazine.com) in 2005 I assumed we'd quickly go digital only. Yet as I read more and more baseball blogs, I realized that being a hand copied and assembled paper zine made us stick out. And our subscribers have always mentioned that the method of delivery is part of what makes them love Zisk. I think if i sent an email to our subscribers that the print version was going away, people would react as well as Mets fans did when Bobby Bonilla returned in 1999.
For the young whippersnappers out there who were raised on the internets, what does a print magazine about baseball offer that makes it better (or at least different) from something digital and more immediate, like a blog or Twitter?
Also, our small paper zine is portable and can be rolled up and fit in a back pocket. One doesn't need to worry about having wifi for the laptop to get some quality reading. Also, it's very handy bathroom reading. I've had many people tell me that's where they'll read an entire issue.
What do you consider your biggest "get" in terms of a contributor?
Our biggest "get" for our book Fan Interference was Josh Wilker, who wrote Cardboard Gods. We wanted to get an outside perspective to sum up the zine and its essence, and Josh was kind enough to pen a forward that is perhaps the best piece in the collection.
Fan Interference is a collection of Zisk's best writing since issue #1. How difficult was it to winnow more than a decade of writing into one document? Were there any pieces you hated to leave on the cutting room floor?
You're on a book tour right to promote Fan Interference. How's the response been so far?
Your co-editor, Mike Faloon, makes many references to punk rock in his introduction and talks about the overlap of his love for punk and baseball. My own anecdotal evidence tells me that punk rock kids tend to love baseball (if they're into any sport at all). Do you agree? If so, what is the reason for that? Because I'm convinced this is true from my own experience, yet have no idea why it's true.
This is an easy one—home finale against the Pirates in 1999. That's the Mets team I've loved the most as an adult, and being there for that final game and them winning in a walk off with a wild pitch was insane. That's the first time I actually felt the upper deck at Shea moving up and down. To this day I have the "Fan Appreciation Day" bat they handed out after the game displayed proudly in my kitchen.