Science fiction didn't conquer the media world in 2008 all on its own: A host of creative people helped power the mighty battlecruiser. Here's our list of the 20 biggest science fiction movers-and-shakers of 2008.
1. J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof. These four guys, between them, pretty much created half the most influential works in the genre right now. On television, Abrams and Lindelof's Lost has shown how to make science fiction into watercooler-talk material. Abrams, Orci and Kurtzman's new show, Fringe, has only been on for a few months but feels like a genre classic already. Abrams is also responsible for the ground-breaking (and camera-shaking) Cloverfield.
Up next: The foursome is responsible for bringing Star Trek back from franchise purgatory. And Orci and Kurtzman have co-written Transformers 2.
2. Will Smith, star of I Am Legend and Hancock. It's hard to think of an actor who can make a project into a hit more easily than Smith, right now. Just imagine Hancock without Smith's legendary affability behind it, and you've got a mighty dud.
Up next: Sequels/prequels to both Hancock and Legend are being bandied about.
3. Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. He championed the idea of giving indie director Chris Nolan the reigns of the Batman films. He's been a key figure in getting movies like Watchmen on the screen. (And he killed the Wonder Woman movie, reportedly because he doesn't think women can carry action movies. But this is the "power list," not the "people we agree with" list.)
Up next: He's in charge of the umpteenth big-screen reinvention of Superman.
4. James Cameron, director of Avatar. Cameron's 3-D space epic won't be out for another year, but it's already revolutionizing the way people think about movies. He's pioneered a whole new system of 3-D cameras, but also created new motion-capture techniques for his alien creatures. Even before the film comes out, everybody else is already playing catch-up. Meanwhile, Cameron discovered Sam Worthington, who stars in Avatar, and pimped him out as one of the leads in Terminator 4.
Up next: Avatar comes out next December.
5. Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios. Warner Bros. may have cornered the market on superheroes-as-serious-dramas, but Marvel owns the idea of a superhero movie universe, complete with crossovers and fan-friendly in-jokes. Between them, Iron Man and Incredible Hulk proved that the superhero punch-'em-up films can feel like pieces of a saga... and make tons of money.
Up next: Another Iron Man, plus Captain America, Avengers, Thor, Ant-Man...
6. Kanye West, rapper/singer. He helped bring a science fiction motif back to music with his Daft Punk collaborations and space-odyssey stage show. He's the reason for Beyonce's cyborg hand.
Up next: His new album, "808s and Heartbreaks," uses an "Autotune" to make his vocals sound more computery and spacey, and it's already the #1 record in the United States.
7. Christopher Nolan, director of The Dark Knight and The Prestige. The Dark Knight was the biggest movie of 2008, but it also showed that grotesque characters and people in funny costumes could be compelling and visceral.
Up next: Nobody knows. Hopefully, another Batman film, but maybe first another mindblowing non-franchise pic like Prestige.
8. Neal Stephenson, author of Anathem. We knew Stephenson's next book would be a hit, thanks to his huge following. But Anathem, with its story of a world where science and technology are separated and pure scientists live in "Maths," captured the imagination of mainstream critics. Suddenly, novels of ideas are cool again.
Up next: Nobody knows. Unless you do?
9. Andrew Stanton, director of Wall-E. Even before his lonely robot movie came out, it had already sparked a whole giant wave of science fiction animated movies. (It looks like exactly one of those movies, Monsters Vs. Aliens, will be good.) People are arguing over what was the best movie of 2008: Wall-E or Dark Knight.
Up next: He's supposed to be directing a live-action movie of John Carter of Mars.
10. Stephenie Meyer, author of Twilight and The Host. I'll be honest: I haven't read any of the Twilight books, or seen the movie. They don't sound like my cup of tea. But the Twilight movie was a huge success, one of the biggest book adaptations in ages. And Meyer's adult science fiction novel, The Host, was surprisingly good: the story of a love triangle between a woman, a man, and the symbiote that is trying to control the woman's body. The Host has been on the Times bestseller list for 29 weeks, outselling pretty much any other recent science fiction book by many orders of magnitude. I would happily go see a Host movie.
Up next: Probably more Twilight books, despite Meyer's vow to stop writing them. The Host also seems to be leading towards a sequel.
11. Guillermo Del Toro, director of Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy 2. He's managed to bridge the gap between arthouse darling and mainstream monster-movie maker in a way almost nobody has done before. No wonder he's been tapped to take on the Hobbit movies.
Up next: Besides Hobbit, GDT is attached to 500 other movies, including Frankenstein, Jekyll, The Champions, Hellboy 3, etc. etc.
12. Bioware, maker of Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights OF The Old Republic. With Mass Effect, BioWare helped recharge the genre of space-opera RPG, following the adventures of Commander Shepard, who encounters aliens and murderous artificial intelligences. This came on the heels of success of past games like Jade Empire and Star Wars: KTOR.
Up next: A new MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic comes out next year.
13. Donna Langley, President of Production at Universal Pictures. When she was an independent producer, she produced The Cell, Austin Powers 2 and other science fiction films. And after she joined Universal, she shepherded Children Of Men to the screen, and she's worked hard to nail Del Toro down to make four movies for Universal, including Frankenstein - and she's been pushing the idea of a Hellboy TV series.
Up next: Her upcoming projects include Army Of Two, a scifi video-game movie.
14. Michael Chabon, author of The Yiddish Policemen's Union. Not only did his literary work of alternate history win Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards, but the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay has championed the literary worth of science fiction with his book Maps And Legends and his two anthologies of science fiction by literary authors.
Up next: Supposedly the Coen Brothers are filming Yiddish.
15. Brian Michael Bendis and Joe Quesada, Marvel Comics. It's been obvious for a while now that the competition between Marvel and DC was a lop-sided one, but maybe 2008 is the year we call it a victory once and for all. Bendis, as writer, have been responsible for series like House of M, Secret Invasion, and New Avengers. And Quesada has helped make other series, like Civil War, into sales juggernauts. DC might have Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns and Neil Gaiman writing for it, but Marvel has the readership.
Up next: Yet another big status-quo-massaging event, Dark Reign.
16. Jennifer Jackson, agent with Donald Maass and Associates. Her name comes up more often than any other agent's, when you're talking book deals. And she's the top dealmaker of 2008, according to Publisher's Marketplace, with a dozen high-profile deals in the past year. Her clients include hot writers like Elizabeth Bear, Ken Scholes, Jay Lake and Mary Robinette Kowal.
Up next: She just sold Amanda Downum's The Drowned City to Orbit Books, in a three-book deal.
17. Will Wright, Spore creator. Wright's The Sims is the best selling computer game in history, and other titles like SimCity also remain huge and groundbreaking. But his build-a-lifeform game, Spore, has sparked new levels of creativity - and debate over whether it accurately reflects evolution.
Up next: We're not sure.
18. Brian Goldner, Hasbro CEO. Who could have imagined the toy tie-in movie would become a huge force in Hollywood again? Goldner, that's who. He helped make Transformers and G.I. Joe into summer blockbuster material.
Up next: More toy movies. Says the man himself: "If you remember Stretch Armstrong, there's an opportunity to tell this great backstory of who Stretch Armstrong is, and why he's so incredible and yet funny."
19. Jeff Walker, the independent movie publicist who brought Hollywood to Comic-Con. Hard as it is to believe, Comic-Con was once a comic convention. And now it's the place where Hollywood studios unveil their latest projects and shimmy for the approval of tens of thousands of die-hard fans. Walker helped engineer that transformation.
Up next: Comic-Con keeps getting huger and more unmanageable. Are the studios going to start skipping it, like Paramount did this year?
20. Weta Workshop. The New Zealand practical effects studio came to prominence working on Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings movies, and now it's the go-to place for science fiction epics, including The Day The Earth Stood Still, Fantastic 4: Rise Of The Silver Surfer, X-Men 3, I, Robot and many others, along with its sister company Weta Digital.
Up next: Weta was supposedly hard at work on Justice League, but no longer. Still on the slate are a mooted Halo film, Avatar, Tintin and the Hobbit films.