I tend to be a contrarian, avoiding what others flock to. This is especially true for Hollywood blockbusters, so it was just this week that I first saw the movie Avatar. It was better than I expected, applying the contrarian rule that the more hyped a movie is the less value it has. In the midst of all the glitz and drama, there were, however, many familiar touchstones that I recognized. For example, the movie score and seemingly futile battle scenes at the end were reminiscent of the movie Glory. The story line of a primitive alien race rising against their oppressive human overlords–complete with well-meaning scientists and over-the-top, testostorone-crazed militaristic destruction–could have been lifted whole cloth from Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel The Word for World is Forest. The idea of a Gaia-like world-wide intelligence that musters all its inhabitants in its defense was featured in Deathworld by Harry Harrison. And the idea of blessing/thanking the animals you kill is familiar from the American Indians and, I suspect, other hunter cultures. There is nothing new under the sun. Genius is evident in how we express the familiar.