The last post noted how Avatar’s director and writer, James Cameron, left off a key piece of info that would have explained a lot of mysteries in the movie – that unobtanium was a room-temperature superconductor. We’re still left with a fairly straightforward and somewhat old-fashioned story, at least compared to what literary SF has been doing. Io9.com noted how much Avatar resembles Poul Anderson’s novella “Call Me Joe”, and that dates from 1957.
So how can we bring “Avatar” into the 21st century in SFnal terms? Another commenter on io9 (sorry, can’t find reference) noted how oddly human the Na’vi are:
All the other life on Pandora appears to have 6 limbs, but the Na’vi only have 4. The others have vents in the their chests for breathing; the Na’vi have mouths. The others have two neural links on their skulls, and they look like fronds; they have one and it looks like braided hair. They’re sentient, but don’t appear to have fire or domesticated animals.
So they look human, too human. By the time of the movie, the world-brain of Pandora, Eywa, has had hundreds of years to watch TV broadcasts emitted from Earth. It could see that homo sapiens was headed its way, and would have been readying its response. The Na’vi were lemurs swinging through the forest two hundred years ago, but now they’re humanoid tool users, just like the approaching enemy. They’re suspiciously attractive, as if Eywa was trying to make creatures that would appeal to and maybe seduce the invaders.
After all, the galaxy is old. Technological alien races could have swung through the Alpha Centauri system every few million years. Eywa would have seen their like before. As in Bruce Sterling’s seminal story, “Swarm”, Eywa could have evolved the Na’vi as a counter-measure to this familiar threat.
It seemed to work. All the humans who worked closely with the Na’vi loved them, even though they were blood-thirsty xenophobes with the cultural sophistication of a second grade playground. Several betrayed their own species for the sake of the Na’vi. They actually let themselves be scanned by Eywa, thinking that they would become Na’vi. Now it has access to everything that the marine Jake and the scientist Dr. Augustine knows. Talk of an espionage coup! Mata Hari had nothing on Neytiri.
By the end of the movie the humans have abandoned their planet-side base. The remaining humans will be quickly scanned, and then Na’vi will set to work reverse-engineering all the human weaponry. The human ships in orbit won’t be safe for long.
Will the Na’vi start building their own fleet of matter-antimatter starships to attack Earth? They live near a gas giant – they have immense energy resources at their disposal. Will the AI who is the actual power behind Evil Corp find a way to counter Eywa’s plan? The scale of these movies could expand a lot.