We Grieve Eco and Lee– Reading Robots? & a Global Feast of Literary Festivals: Your Latest Lit News by Laurel Dowswell

RIP Harper Lee

The author of To Kill a Mockingbird died at the age of 89 this week. The Pulitzer Prize winner who took on the segregated south through the eyes of young Scout Finch was buried on Saturday, February 20th, in Monroeville, Alabama. In this loving tribute, author Rick Bragg says, “She took the worst of us, and the best of us, and made it clear which one we wanted to be.”

NPR shares some audio of her incredible prose here.

The Literary World Loses Umberto Eco

Italian novelist and professor of semiotics Umberto Eco died on February 19th. His international bestseller, The Name of the Rose, has been translated into 30 languages. He held a passion for the medieval, as well as postmodernism. His last novel, Numero Zero, published in 2015, was a satire on the popular press.

Robots + Books = ?

Image via Flickr by NASA Johnson

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta are proposing the use of fiction to teach artificial intelligent agents value alignment—a property that allows AI to only pursue goals that are beneficial to humans. In grants funded by DARPA, (U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and ONR (Office of Naval Research), the proposal states: “Giving artificial intelligences the ability to read and understand stories may be the most expedient means of enculturing artificial intelligences so that they can better integrate themselves into human societies and contribute to our overall wellbeing.” Yes, this is really happening!

The Globe Loves Literary Festivals!

Stories tie us together across oceans, cultures, and languages. The power of storytelling is being celebrated this week and in upcoming events in places such as:

Lahore, Pakistan

Indian actor Sharmila Tagore was the opening host on Saturday, February 20th, in the launch of the Lahore Literary Festival that included panels that discussed feminism, politics, sexuality, and more.

Limerick, Ireland

From February 26-28th, Limerick will be hosting a literary festival that will embrace Irish writers and have fun with music, some child-friendly events and even a cabaret.


Weymouth Leviathon

Weymouth, Dorset, UK

The Leviathan Literary Fest in Weymouth will host a first: a maritime literary festival. Taking place from March 12-13th, various forms will be celebrated including fiction, nonfiction, and photography, among others.



Russia Doesn’t Like Dick – or Jane

Children’s book publishing in Russia is a hellish endeavor. In this article posted February 17th by journalist Masha Gesson at The Intercept, she delves into the major challenges in the publishing industry under Putin including working under a law passed in 2010 called, “On Protecting Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development.” A fascinating and thoughtful look at what editors have to face in their daily operations in today’s Russia.

Laurel Dowswell is the Features Editor at Change Seven. Her short story “I Am theEggman” was nominated for the 2016 Pushcart Prize. She was a copy editor for an independent feminist newspaper in Santa Fe, NM, after being raised and educated in Florida. She lives and writes in Georgia, just outside of Atlanta with her son. She is currently working on a novel filled with oil paintings, family drama, and the spectrum of sexuality. Follow her on twitter @laurels_idea.

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