By Tom Simpson
Hal Schrieve is well known to Olympians as a local word nerd, ardent reader, University of Washington graduate and trans activist. Schrieve, 22, is about to be well-known for hir—Schrieve’s preferred pronoun—powerful, debut novel, a transformative murder mystery that features teen zombies and werewolves.
“I tried to imagine a modern fantasy world where the systems of oppression I knew to exist weren’t just background noise to the main character but were at the center of the book,” said Schrieve in an interview with OLY ARTS. “As for werewolves—I have always been totally obsessed with them. They are the coolest monster, and when they come up in fiction they are often about dehumanization and otherness and suppressing one’s own desire or power—or not, and being afraid of it.”
Schrieve’s literary star is rising fast. Hir first novel, Out of Salem, has already been listed as one of the top “10 hottest YA releases of March 2019” by Bookstr.com, and praised by Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal and Spooky Kid Lit. Kirkus described it as “on fire with magic and revolution.” Its publisher characterizes it as “the best Teen Zombie Werewolf Witchy Faerie fantasy murder mystery you’ve ever read.”
Out of Salem is an inventive story of intersectional identity that includes both trans and genderqueer identities, coupled with a subversion of common zombie tropes and magical elements. Set in an alternative United States in 1999, where fairy folk, selkies, werewolves and zombies are commonplace, the novel is a deeper literary accomplishment than your average youth fantasy. In late April, Browsers Bookshop will welcome Schrieve back to Olympia to celebrate its launch.
“I think that in terms of other kinds of transformations, I like talking about the changes all bodies go through in hyperbolizing kind of metaphorical language,” explained Schrieve. “I think werewolves represent the power people can find in themselves which can express itself in ways that make people uncomfortable or be interpreted as deviant or dangerous. My hope is that…people are able to read and respond and that more interest in this kind of fiction grows.”
Schrieve, who now holds a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in English from University of Washington, currently studies library science at Queens College, New York. Schrieve resides in Brooklyn, New York, and hir poetry has appeared in Vetch magazine.
Book launch and reading
107 Capitol Way N, Olympia
7 p.m. Monday, April 22