In today’s interview, Jean-Paul L. Garnier a science fiction author, bookstore owner and a podcast host will answer some questions about his endeavors and give us some interesting insights on his literary adventure. We appreciate very much that he took some time to answer our questions and be part of this interview.
- I understand you are the owner of a bookstore, publish Sci-Fi books, and run a podcast. Can you tell us how this amazing journey began?
I have always been a book person and spent a good portion of my life haunting bookstores and collecting books. I have also been a long-time fan of science fiction but it was a passion of mine that was lived out in isolation. I derived so much enjoyment from science fiction that I started feeling that I needed to give back to that community in some way. Eight years ago I started collecting books with the thought of opening a shop. I was living in a city and it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to pull it off, so I tried to start a magazine but didn’t know any SF writers and it fizzled out. When I moved to Joshua Tree my partner Zara found a shed for rent and talked me into opening the shop in the beginning of 2016. I met a few local SF authors and then it took over my life. Since then we’ve hosted over a hundred events, published a handful of books, produced Simultaneous Times podcast for over two years, and given away thousands of books for children with our Free Books for Kids program.
- What challenge did you face when it came to establishing a bookstore in the midst of this ebook revolution?
When Space Cowboy first opened the store was in a little shed and people would come in and laugh at me, saying things like, “a science fiction bookstore in the middle of nowhere, you’re crazy, you won’t last a month.” That was almost five years ago, so it seems that my insanity has paid off. At first it was more of a hobby of mine, I was working construction full-time and operating the bookshop on weekends. After a year a bigger storefront opened up and I decided to expand and work the shop full-time. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. Oddly the ebook was never a factor for me, I don’t read them personally and I think that most people are getting sick of looking at screens. Most people who come into the store delight in the smell of old books and nothing can replace having a tangible object in your hands.
- What do you enjoy the most about your business?
Hands down my favorite part of running the bookstore is that is gives me the opportunity to meet and interact with other science fiction authors, fans, and literary people in general. I had a feeling when I opened the shop that I would enjoy the company of the people that came in because we share the love of literature. That impression turned out to be an understatement, I have met so many wonderful people, made some great friends, and learned so much about SF and writing from my customers and authors that come to the store for reading events.
- What do you consider to be your greatest achievement as bookstore owner, publisher, and podcast host?
Connecting authors with an audience. Writing can be a solitary affair but books are nothing without readers. As authors we are often isolated and it can be difficult to find a readership for your work. Sitting in a room full of books all day puts me in the unique position to make suggestions and turn people on to new authors. I have a large selection of local authors in the store and try to find as much obscure and small press SF as I can to share with my customers. On our podcast we’ve had big name authors as well as writers who are having their first publication and our audience loves both. Also through the events we’ve hosted I see a lot of authors becoming friends and staying in touch with each other, and I love this because bookstores are all about community and flow of ideas.
- Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I live a pretty simple life out in the desert and spend most of my time on literary endeavors. Between running the bookshop, publishing books, producing the podcast, and writing books I’m a pretty busy guy, but I love that every aspect of my life is involved in reading and writing and couldn’t ask for more. Before the bookstore I spent a lot of my life doing audio work and am pleased that these skills have made it possible for me to produce a great sounding podcast and a new way to share science fiction with the audience.
- Could you describe your podcast and tell us what it’s all about?
Simultaneous Times is a science fiction anthology podcast with dramatic readings, sometimes with a full cast, and all of the stories and poetry are set to original music composed specifically for the writing. We accept submissions from new authors and commission stories from writers we love. We have a broad idea of what SF is capable of and believe that our audience wants variety, so the program can vary wildly from one episode to the next and we hope to have as many takes on SF as possible. We also interview the authors and musicians who make the podcast possible. I have a wonderful music department that has really kept me going and added so much life to our productions, my main musical contributors are: RedBlueBlackSilver, Phog Masheeen, Dain Luscombe, Julie Carpenter, Oneirothopter and loopool. We’ve been very fortunate to work with so many talented authors and composers.
- What do you love the most about science fiction?
This is a tough question because there are so many things I love about science fiction. A big one for me is that it is the literature of imagination, and as a writer that gives me a lot of freedom to explore the human psyche in dramatic and unexpected ways. Science fiction is also a wonderful way to explore issues that would otherwise feel accusatory if they were addressed in traditional settings. When we take human issues and depict them in cultures that are completely alien to us then we have a way of creating social commentary that goes beyond our environment in ways that allow us to explore humanity through lenses that would otherwise be unavailable.
- Do you have a favorite science fiction book, if yes tell us why?
This is also a difficult question because I have so many favorites. Top of my list at the moment is J.G. Ballard and Ted Chiang, but there are so many other writers I love. Currently I am interested in the ideas of the new wave authors, but I also read a lot of work from people that I am associated with. Much of my reading is related to the podcast, vetting and editing submissions, rereading stories over and over until I feel like I can interpret them accurately. A few others that I love and have influenced my writing are: Anna Kavan, Michael Butterworth, Greg Bear, Joanna Russ, Thomas Disch, Alfred Bester, Octavia Butler, and so many others, the list goes on and on and if you come by the store I may talk your ear off about them.
- What would you tell to someone who would like to own a bookshop?
Do it! The world needs more places where intellectual freedom is encouraged. But also know that it is a lot of work. A lot of people seem to believe that the job is just sitting around reading but is way more than a full time job, and it is not uncommon for me to work eighty hour weeks. For me running a bookshop means wearing a lot of hats, on any given day I may find myself working as: a retail clerk, an accountant, an audio engineer, a PR person, an events coordinator etc. As with owning any business there are always ups and downs and it is not always lucrative, however it is the most enjoyable profession that I have been involved in. There’s a lot of love in the book world and I encourage others to get involved. If anyone has specific questions about how the business works get in touch and I will help anyway I can.
- Have you written any Sci-Fi books?
Yes, so far I have three science fiction books published, and I have written several more that will see publication over the next few years. I have a collection of SF short stories called Echo of Creation, a novella called Garbage In, Gospel Out, and a book of science fiction poetry called Future Anthropology, which was nominated for the 2019 Elgin Award and is currently being translated into Portuguese. I also contribute stories, poetry, and essays to magazines on occasion and have written several plays.
Online Shop: (we can only ship in the US at the moment)
Podcast: (also available on most podcast players)
Twitter – @space_books
Instagram – @spacecowboybooks