A reader over on Io9 recently brought up some striking similarities between James Cameron’s upcoming Avatar and a 1957 short story called Call Me Joe, written by Poul Anderson and included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two.
Like Avatar,centers on a paraplegic — Ed Anglesey — who telepathically connects with an artificially created life form in order to explore a harsh planet (in this case, Jupiter). Anglesey, like Avatar‘s Jake Sully, revels in the freedom and strength of his artificial created body, battles predators on the surface of Jupiter, and gradually goes native as he spends more time connected to his artificial body.
Should the similarities between Avatar and Call Me Joe cause problems for Cameron, it wouldn’t be the first time. After The Terminator came out, writer Harlan Ellison sued the production company for plagiarizing two episodes he wrote for The Outer Limits. Even though Cameron took Ellison’s ideas in a very different and novel direction, the company settled with Ellison, who is now acknowledged in the film’s credits.
Call me Joe sounds pretty similar to the Avatar plot, and if the cover art means anything, in both the aliens are blue cat people (though in Call Me Joe‘s case they’re way-more-awesome centaurs). Poul Anderson also wrote a 1978 novel called The Avatar, which says… uh… something. But even if Cameron did steal it, at least give him credit for finding something people had forgotten while everyone else in Hollywood is busy ripping off 300 and Shaun of the Dead. And for being able to read.