While geeks the world over are eagerly awaiting Avatar, the return of James Cameron to the original sci-fi territory he's proven a master over with The Abyss and Terminator/Terminator 2, fans of obscure science fiction novellas from 1957 are being struck with deja vu. A reader tipped off genre champions io9 to the story Call Me Joe by Poul Anderson, a story that sounds remarkably like Cameron's supposedly original script that revolves around humans that use the bodies of an alien species via a mental connection as physical avatars, and proceed to use said avatars to exploit the resources of the alien's home world.
From the io9 post, "Like Avatar, Call Me Joe 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."
Now that certainly sounds awfully similar to Avatar, and if that simple description is not evidence enough to inspire doubt, Avatar's integrity is done no favors by the cover art for Call Me Joe. As seen at the top of this post, the life forms on the surface of Jupiter in Anderson's story are large, blue-tinged hybrids between humanoids and cats; which are not unlike the Na'vi, the humanoid-cat race that roams Cameron's Pandora.
There is no word yet if Poul Anderson's estate will be seeking legal recourse from James Cameron and Fox, but if lawyers do get involved, Cameron doesn't exactly have a clean record. Below you can see noted science fiction writer Harlan Ellison relay the lengthy legal history he had with Cameron over the similarities between The Terminator and two of his own stories. Though the issue never went to trial, Ellison explains how he was finally given an 'inspired by' credit on Cameron's film (in addition to some financial compensation). The question is, will anyone representing Anderson put up a similar struggle?