Charge of ‘Avatar’ plagiarism goes viral

10.27.09 8 years ago 34 Comments

20th Century Fox

I really dig the still you’re looking at next to this article.  I love the sense of motion, the tactile qualities of it.  The high-res version is a thing of wonder, really.  I’m sorry, but as an FX nerd AND as a sci-fi/world building nerd, I am absolutely loving this so far.

I am well aware that there are a lot of people who are at this point gunning for Cameron and the film, and a good deal of those people are in the critical community and in the media.  And my guess is that Cameron is well aware of the attitude, and that he really doesn’t care.  I even get the sense he encourages some of the bigger “Evil Jim” stories.  I would once I got a reputation as a legendary world-beating sonofabitch.  I wish I was a big enough personality to cultivate that.  I envy Cameron his ability to give the finger to pretty much everyone and everything and just pursue a massive personal vision.  Live or die, succeed or fail, when “Avatar” hits screens on December 18th, you can believe that what you’re seeing is James Cameron’s baby.

I love, though, how quick everyone was to come to the defense of Poul Anderson and his short story “Call Me Joe” after iO9 ran their article today.  Almost immediately, by mid-morning, the court case was over, Cameron was guilty, and the conversation had already moved into the damages stage.  “I wonder if they’ll change the title to ‘Poul Anderson’s Avatar'”.

No.  They won’t.  And let’s at least pump the brakes a little here, eh?

The story is out of print right now, and not available in print form online.  But, since we’re friends, I’ve got a way for you to make your own mind up instead of rushing to judgment.

Hour 25 did an episode of their show where they read “Call Me Joe.”  The whole thing.

My take on it:  there are similarities of idea, but not in a way that convinces me that Cameron wholesale borrowed from this story in particular.  I think Cameron’s “Avatar” builtds on a tradition within the genre, but I don’t think that makes it a rip-off.  Both stories deal with someone bonding via psychic link to an organic being on a planet where the human can’t go.  In both stories, the guy is crippled.

That’s about it.  Anderson’s story deals with what happens when the alien host starts exerting equal pressure back via that psycic link.

Of course, I haven’t seen his movie yet, so I’m judging what I think I know about this film.  I do know that when it comes out, I’ll see it, and then I’ll be able to judge whether I think Cameron’s just pilfered old SF tropes or whether he’s come up with something that builds on them, that adds to the tradition.

And don’t forget, in addition to “Call Me Joe,” Poul Anderson also wrote a novel about something totally different, and he called it “The Avatar.”  And Lincoln’s secretary was named Kennedy and Kennedy’s secretary was named James Cameron.  It all makes sense now!

“Avatar” opens in theaters and in IMAX 3D on December 18th.

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