Is Avatar Ripping Off a ’50s Sci-Fi Story? (Probably!)



So io9 discovered something interesting the other day… the existence of a 1959 novella by noted sci-fi author Poul Anderson, titled Call Me Joe. In this story:

? The protagonist is paraplegic and gets around in a wheelchair
? Bitter at his disability, he’s only happy when he’s telepathically controlling a artificial, lab-made creature which is used to explore Jupiter (which is harsh but livable)
? This creature looks like Jupiter’s native alien lifeforms, which are blue, cat-like and and use primitive weapons to fight off the planet’s other predators
? The protagonist — in his “avatar,” if you will — meets some of the female aliens and begins to fall for aliens and their culture

So… exactly like Avatar, then. Of course, the cover of the Call Me Joe novella shows a cat-centaur type thing, and Avatar‘s cat-aliens are humanoid, so Avatar is actually less inventive than the 1959 book.

Now, is Cameron ripping off this Poul Anderson book? I say FUCK AND YES. Maybe Cameron forgot he read it, or he heard about the story second-hand and doesn’t realize how much he’s stealing, but this kind of shit can’t be coincidence. Plus, as /Film points out, Cameron has already been sued once for copyright infringement by Harlan Ellison regarding some stuff in The Terminator. Of course, Ellison is a nut case, but the case itself was settled out of court and Ellison is now has a credit in the movie, so it’s not looking good for Cameron, in my opinion.

One more thing, and it’s a mighty big spoiler — In Anderson’s book, the progtanist’s avatar eventually develops a mind of its own and basically absorbs the protagonists’ mind completely to live happily with the blue cat-people of Jupiter. Obviously, Cameron’s Avatar has some crazy Ferngully/Captain Planet war between humans and the Na’Vi going on, but if that’s how the movie ends, I’d say Cameron’s in for a lawsuit. A very quick and costly lawsuit, because there is no fucking way he’s going to wriggle out of this.

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Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.