Legendary science fiction author Ben Bova has made a post on his official website that responds to fan concerns that Avatar ripped off his 1973 novel The Winds of Altair. As the book was recently re-released and is easily available for people to read, the feeling that James Cameron stole the movie’s story from the book has been spreading like wildfire.
Ben Bova’s post is a good read, but in the end he doesn’t feel that James Cameron stole his work:
I enjoyed the film, even though some of its key concepts are eerily similar to a novel of mine that was originally published in 1973, The Winds of Altair.
Many of my fans have pointed out those similarities, and there’s been a bit of a storm of protest among the bloggers.
I appreciate their sense of outrage, but I don’t feel it’s entirely justified.
James Cameron has not plagiarized my work. Plagiarism is when someone steals the words you’ve written and uses them as his own. Ideas are a different matter. Ideas can’t be copyrighted or patented. Ideas are free.
In fact, the basic idea in The Winds of Altair had been explored in earlier science fiction stories, most notable Poul (sic) Anderson’s 1957 novelet, ‘Call Me Joe.’
Wherever the ideas came from, ‘Avatar’ is a startlingly exciting motion picture.
You don’t have to be a science fiction fan to be swept away by it.