French science fiction writer Yan Ayerdhal died Tuesday, October 27, 2015, after an intense bout with lung cancer.
Born Marc Soulier on January 26, 1959, in Lyons, he thrived on SF from an early age, since his father, Jacky Soulier, was a big-time fan and collector—he co-authored a few children and young adult SF books in the 1980s. Ayerdhal worked in several trades before becoming a full-time writer: he was a ski instructor, a professional soccer player, a teacher, he worked in marketing for L’Oréal, and so on.
He burst on the French SF scene with La Bohême et l’Ivraie (“Bohemia and Chaff”, 1990), a multi-volume novel that was later reprinted in one book in a restored text, and which took the field by storm. His strong narrative drive, his in-your-face treatment of sometime political themes, his particularly strong female characters, proved hugely popular. Then followed a successful string of novels, from his first publisher Fleuve Noir, then from J’ai Lu—he built a fruitful relationship with editor Marion Mazauric, whom he followed when she created her own publishing house, Au Diable Vauvert.
Most notable among his novels are Demain, une oasis (“Tomorrow, an Oasis”, 1991), L’Histrion (“The Minstrel”, 1993), Parleur ou les Chroniques d’un rêve enclavé (“Speaker, or Chronicles of an Enclosed Dream”, 1997), Étoiles mourantes (“Dying Stars”, in collaboration with Jean-Claude Dunyach, 1999), and Transparences (“Transparencies”, 2004). Most of them were illustrated by Gilles Francescano. He was the recipient of several SF awards: the Tour Eiffel award, the Rosny aîné award (three times), the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire (twice) and many more. He had one story published in Interzone, “Flickerings” (May 2001 issue, original title: “Scintillements”, 1998, translated by Sheryl Curtis).
He was also an editor of some note: his anthology Genèses (“Geneses”, 1996) put in the limelight several of his contemporaries, who have since achieved some success as SF writers. Always active to defend writers’ right, he created and animated “Le Droit du Serf” (“Serfs’ Rights”), an group of writers, illustrators, translators, etc., devoted to fight for creators’ rights. He also helped many French writers to get published, acting as an unofficial agent.
He was a strong and generous presence in many festivals and conventions, always quick to smile and welcome you as a friend, though he could be fierce when it came to assert his opinions. As influences, he mentioned Norman Spinrad (for his thriller Mind Game) and Frank Herbert’s Dune. These past few years, he wrote mostly thrillers that became bestsellers, in order to find a larger audience, but he was working on a new SF novel when the cancer hit him.
He leaves behind his companion of many years, French-American writer and translator Sara Doke.