Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox
One of this holiday season's most anticipated films is Avatar, a science-fiction fantasy based on an original story by director James Cameron.
Just one thing: "Original story" may be an exaggeration.
The conscientious geeks at sci-fi blog io9 have discovered a 1957 story by writer Poul Anderson that bears a major resemblance to the plot of Avatar. Both the Anderson story and the Cameron script center around a paralyzed future hero who travels to another planet using an artificial body. Both heroes find themselves adjusting to alien society and eventually abandoning their Earthly selves (or in the case of the movie, siding with the aliens in a battle against Earth).
io9 points out that Cameron has stolen material from science fiction writers before: The Terminator was blatantly ripped off of TV scripts and stories by Harlan Ellison, by the director's own admission. (Ellison sued, and his name now appears in the credits.)
Does writer Anderson have grounds for a similar lawsuit? We asked science fiction authority Gabriel Mckee, author of the blog SF Gospel, who had this to say:
Science fiction is a literature of ideas, and it's certainly happened before that multiple writers have arrived at the same concept independently. Compare Jack Finney's "The Body Snatchers" (on which the movies were based) and Philip K. Dick's "The Father Thing," which have the same basic idea but were published almost simultaneously.
On the other hand, Cameron has a track record of this kind of uncredited "inspiration," and the Anderson story has been reprinted many times since its original publication, so I wouldn't be surprised if there was a link in this case.
Cameron wrote the Avatar script in 1994, claiming that it was based on "every single science fiction book I read as a kid." Every single one? That could add up to a lot of lawsuits...
Do you think Cameron stole his idea? Chime in below!