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Chatting with Jean-Paul L. Garnier

Jean-Paul provides tips for audio narration, on running Space Cowboy Books, advice for starting your own bookstore, poetry chapbooks and nuclear war, being editor for SFPA, and relaunching Worlds of IF.

Chatting with Jean-Paul L. Garnier

Jean-Paul L. Garnier is the owner of Space Cowboy Books, producer of Simultaneous Times Podcast, and editor of the SFPA's Star*Line Magazine. He is also the deputy editor-in-chief of Worlds of IF magazine & the soon to be relaunched Galaxy magazine. He has written many books of poetry and science fiction.

Jean-Paul is the author of “Scifaiku” from Radon issue 6.

Q: What initially drew you to poetry as a form of self-expression?

I first began writing poetry when I was nine years old. My parents had both been poets and I grew up reading a lot. I remember writing my first story in kindergarten, a sequel to Peter Pan. When I was a teenager I wrote the usual slew of weepy teenage angst poems. None particularly good. I’m not one of those people that ever had much inherent talent, like many of my friends. But what I lacked in talent I always tried to make up for with disciple and dedication to what I wanted to do, and being a poet was something that always called to me. I’m an introvert, so I’ve always had an easier time expressing myself on the page, and over time writing has grown into a compulsion, something that I have to do.

Q: Describe for us your journey in becoming one of the seminal figures in the modern speculative landscape?

I’m kind of surprised to be referred to as a “seminal figure.” I have always loved SF and had written some when I was younger. But in 2014 I decided to leave behind some of my other passions and dedicate myself to writing SF as my main output. Opening the bookstore shortly followed this decision. Since then I have dedicated every day of my life to supporting SF authors, publishing, and writing. It’s a dream come true. If I see an opportunity to help an author, press, magazine, or organization, and I am able to and have the time, then I reach out and see what I can do. This has led me to many partnerships, judging for awards, editing, beta reading, hosting events, donating funds, creating scholarships for Clarion and Odyssey, and just about every aspect of the SF community.

I’ve hosted hundreds of events over the years and worked with loads of authors, which has been a lot of work but also a delight. It has also taught me a lot about writing and how to run a business. It can be very overwhelming trying to build something from the ground up, but I tend to think in terms of building mountains out of pebbles. If you add a pebble to the pile everyday, before you know it there will be a mountain. Passion and kindness are infectious, and I want the world to be a better place, so I do what I can, when I can. Learning when to say no has also been a valuable lesson. I’m only one person, so there is only so much I can do.

SF has a rich tradition of “paying it forward.” I love this concept and have never worked in any other field that holds this as a value. I also deeply believe in David Brin’s concept of “positive sum gain.” Our culture need not be a competitive one, because there are always ways for everyone to benefit, instead of thinking in terms of winners and losers. We’re all in this together, and we can make meaningful connections and friendships through our efforts. Ever since I fell in love with SF I wanted to find ways to give back to a community that has brought me so much pleasure and helped me through tough times. Space Cowboy Books has been a wonderful outlet for helping to make this happen.

Q: Do you have any special process for preparing your voice for audio narration?

The number one important thing when adapting stories for audio is to understand the intent of the work. Sometimes this means asking the author questions, and it always means reading the story many times so that the meaning of the work really sets in. Reading someone else’s stories is an act of interpretation and it is important to keep this in mind when recording. As for preparing the voice, vocal exercises that are used for singers can be helpful. Often I need to record early in the morning to avoid background noise. But this can be an issue because the vocal cords have not had the opportunity to stretch out through speaking. When working with other voice actors I have learned that I need to behave like a director, and help them understand the correct cadences and inflections. Having written for theater and working with “real” directors was an invaluable experience for learning how to do this correctly.

Q: How do you manage to fit in time to be creative when you have a multitude of publishing businesses and projects to run?

This is always a challenge for anyone who runs a business or wears a bunch of hats. My life runs on deadlines, which can be intimidating. But it works for me because I almost always know what I have to do and when to do it. This rigid schedule actually helps keep my mental health balanced. Being able to work on creative projects is a luxury, and I make sure to keep that in mind at all times.

I wake up early and start my day by reading for pleasure. This is essential because so much of my work time is spent reading, and it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that I read because I love reading. I write several novellas a year, but I don’t write full-time. Several times a year I allow myself to put writing first, and by that I mean that the first hour of my day is spent writing. In this way I am able to do the first draft of a novella in three to six weeks. For the rest of the year I just have to make time for revisions, writing poetry and short stories, whenever I can. This process has taught me that I can’t wait around for the muse and have to get the work done when possible. I always keep a notebook next to me and take down extensive notes, so when it comes time to write I have a guide to work with and this helps me get into the flow. I also have a huge backlog of work in various stages of completion, so I think I look more prolific than I actually am.

Q: Do you feel that indie bookstores are more important than ever in fostering a community of writers and readers in ways that digital booksellers cannot match?

Yes! The in-person experience cannot be replaced by the online experience. Bookstores, including mine, host author events, serve as meeting places for the community, and are generally run by people that deeply care about literature, authors, and reading. Algorithms can never replace a well read bookseller who loves the material. Working at a bookshop is about much more than money, and I have often found myself talking a customer out of a sale because I don’t want the customer leaving with the wrong book. I want them to discover something new and fall in love with an author and their work. Digital retailers are about the bottomline of making money. Booksellers, such as myself, are in it for the love of books.

Q: How readily do larger publishers come to Space Cowboy to work with you? Or do you focus on smaller titles and authors?

Space Cowboy works with publishers large and small, and with many indie and self-published authors. I decide to work with people based on the quality of their work rather than on how it was published. If its science fiction, and I love it, then l’m always happy to try and help out authors, as long as I have the time. Selling books is difficult no matter what stage of your career in you are in, and I view it as a bookstore’s responsibility to help authors sell books.

Q: For anyone considering opening up their own SFF bookstore, what would you tell them?

Running a bookstore can be difficult and not particularly lucrative. As with running any business it takes a lot of time and effort and there is no guarantee of success, or even a paycheck. However, it is a profession where your passion for reading, books, authors, and culture in general is invaluable. And one of the most wonderful things about being at the bookstore is that the folks that come in also share these passions. When you are doing what you love it doesn’t always feel like work, thankfully. And the rewards are much greater than anything monetary.

Running a specialty shop that focuses on genre can both be an asset and a detriment. The more niche your business, the easier it can be to market since you are targeting a specific audience. But the flipside of this is that you have a much more limited customer base. But passion is infectious! Do what you love and what you want to do with your life. If that’s running a bookstore then go for it! Why waste your time on the things you don’t love? If you work hard enough you can do anything you want to. If you can dream it, it can become a reality.

Q: What brought Space Cowboy Books to Joshua Tree, CA?

For a long time I dreamed of opening a bookstore, but rent prices in the city were just too high to make the dream a reality. In 2015 my partner and I moved out to the Mojave and I went from being an audio technician at a studio to being a construction worker, again. I figured that I would live a quiet life and write books in my spare time, but had sort of given up on the dream of a bookstore.

Shortly after moving here my partner met someone who had a small shop at the Sun Alley Shops complex, and found out that one of the sheds there was for rent. The price was right, but the place was small and I wasn’t sure that we could pull it off. We sat down and put all of the information we had down on paper, and decided that it would be worth trying out for three months and that I would keep my handyman job in case it didn’t work out. People laughed at us those first few months and would say things like, “a sci-fi bookstore in a shed in the middle of nowhere, you’re crazy.” That was over eight years ago. After a year in the shed a larger, proper storefront opened up on the property and we moved in. It started going well enough, and I had saved up a little money, so I told myself that I would try doing the bookstore full time and quit my “regular” job. I gave myself three months for this to work out, and I never went back to working for the man.

Q: Your recent poetry chapbook, Proving Grounds, is primarily concerned with nuclear weapons and their impact on humans and our planet. Is this topic one that is near and dear to you?

It is near to me, but not dear. During the pandemic, when a lot of folks were complaining about having to stay at home, I turned my attention to some of the larger problems that humanity faces. Having grown up at the end of the cold war, and having been forced to do duck and cover exercises in school, I found it strange that the conversation about nuclear weapons had essentially disappeared, even though the threat was still there and in ways had grown worse. It is easy to feel small in the face of such large-scale problems, and I thought to myself “I am a poet, what can I do?” But the answer was in the question. We do what we can through the means available to us. The more research I did, the more horrified I became, and felt that I had to do something about this issue. So, I decided to write the book and have all of the proceeds go to The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

While it can be difficult for one person to make a difference, when awareness is raised and each of us chip in where we can, then real change can happen, whether socially or politically, or with whatever issue is important to you. Personally, I would like to see the human race survive and thrive. Much madness from the past has put us in great threat, but I am an optimist and believe that we can make the world a better place and repair some of the damage created in the past, if enough of us try. I have a motto that I try to live by: if I have time to complain then I have time to act to remove the source of the complaint.

Q: Do haiku have a special place in your creative heart compared to other poetry forms?

One of the things that I find important about writing poetry, especially short form, is that it teaches you to be concise. I believe that writers of fiction can benefit from writing poetry at least occasionally. I’m also a big fan of prosody, and poetry is a perfect training ground to learn about its use. When writing, I often choose a theme that I’d like to work with and then work with a “theme and variations” method, testing out the ideas and seeing how far they can go. I find this especially useful when developing an idea to see if it will end up a short story, novella, play, or whatever I am shooting for. If I can’t get a few haiku out of the theme, then it probably isn’t fit for longer form works.

Q: How did you come to be the current editor of SFPA’s Star*Line?

I’ve been a member of the SFPA for a decade, and my first paid publication was with their online journal Eye to the Telescope. So, the SFPA has been dear to me for a long time. When something brings me joy I often look for ways to give back. Because of this I ran for VP when there was a call for volunteers to help run the organization. I didn’t win the election, but when it came time for a new editor for Star*Line I was asked to apply for the position. I had been working as a freelance editor and producing a monthly fanzine, and had been curious about working with magazines as well, so I jumped at the opportunity. I was thrilled when my application was accepted by the executive committee and have been working for the magazine ever since.

One thing about Star*Line that is really cool is that the editorship has a maximum five year term. Because of this no singular taste can represent the organization for very long and a variety of voices have the chance to represent our membership. I’m looking forward to seeing what direction the next editor takes the magazine in. One change I’ve made to the magazine is creating an additional column with interviews with specpo editors of other magazines and venues, and I hope to see this continue because specpo has really gained in popularity and is being published in more and more mags. This is a wonderful trend and I hope to see specpo continue to flourish in the publishing world.

Q: What steps were needed to relaunch Worlds of IF in 2024 for the first time since 1986?

One of the main things was to acquire the trademark. Justin T. O’Conor Sloane, the EIC and mastermind behind Starship Sloane Publishing, took care of all of the bureaucratic details. I had been writing for various online magazines published by Starship Sloane, and was honored when Justin asked me to come on board as deputy EIC. For our first issue there was a lot to sort out about how we would run the magazine, for not only the first issue, but also moving forward into future issues. We had to have a lot of meetings to sort out details, contracts, aesthetic, pay rates, and generally how we wanted things to work out. Both of us are aware that we are picking up a legacy and wanted to not just honor that legacy but also add to it in meaningful ways. It’s been a wonderful learning experience and I’m so proud of our first issue. There will be many more to come! The first issue is available in print, but can also be downloaded for free for a limited time at

Q: Are you launching anything new in 2024, or focusing on perfecting your existing projects?

There's a lot of exciting things coming up this year! Space Cowboy will be releasing a collection of speculative poetry from Pedro Iniquez, which will be heading off to the book designer shortly. And a collection of my short stories and flash fiction called Cardboard Spaceship will be coming out from Shacklebound Books, hopefully in late spring. I also have a western novella on sub at the moment, and am busy rewriting an SF tribute to Jean Genet. I had a lot of fun writing gay alien prison smut and will probably be doing more of that. Simultaneous Times podcast will continue to be released on the 15th of each month, as well as my monthly perzine Accretion. On top of working for Worlds of IF, I have also been named deputy EIC of the soon to relaunch Galaxy Magazine, so we will have our first issue out later this year. The bookstore has tons of events coming up, including season 4 of Flash Science Fiction Nights, one of which will be a collaboration with Radon Journal. There’s also some really fun book and magazine projects in the works, but those are top secret at the moment.

To find out more about upcoming Space Cowboy Books’ edeavors please visit

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