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Masters of Sci-Fi: Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof

Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lilly get plenty of screen time on “Lost,” but they’re not the stars of the show. That would be Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse.

It would be unfair to call the executive producers of ABC’s island mystery drama mere showrunners since, in fact, they now preside over an entire “Lost” empire: DVDs, board games, elaborate Internet worlds. Mr. Lindelof and Mr. Cuse even stage a tour de force live show at Comic-Con every July.

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The duo has helped transform sci-fi on TV in two ways.

First, “Lost” helped convince network suits that sci-fi was no longer just a genre for geeks. “When the show came on, sci-fi was a toxic topic in network hallways,” Mr. Cuse said. “‘Lost’ proved it was possible to have these sci-fi elements in a show and still be successful.”

Indeed, Mr. Lindelof and Mr. Cuse came to “Lost” without a lot of sci-fi experience. Mr. Lindelof’s resume included a stint on “Crossing Jordan,” while Mr. Cuse was best known for work on action hours such as “Nash Bridges” and “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.”

Another way “Lost” has been a pioneer is through its massive off-air community. Mr. Lindelof and Mr. Cuse, working with ABC’s marketing and Internet executives, have found dozens of ways to let viewers interact with the show beyond its weekly one-hour time slot.

No surprise, then, that Mr. Lindelof cites another ABC drama—the short-lived “Twin Peaks”—as his chief creative inspiration.

“I used to watch it with my dad when I was a kid. He would record the episodes on his old VCR and we’d rewind the episodes every time we watched,” said Mr. Lindelof, who co-created “Lost” with J.J. Abrams. “I really remember that notion of the television show leaving the set and entering the world of interpretive conversation.”

For at least the next two years, Mr. Lindelof and Mr. Cuse will be focusing all of their TV energies on “Lost.” It’s too soon for either man to be discussing his next project, but both were willing to offer a few words that describe the next season of “Lost.”

“Non-paradoxical,” said Mr. Lindelof.

“Time travel,” added Mr. Cuse. “But it’s much tougher to do time travel when your rule of time travel is, nothing you go back to do in the past can change what happens in the future.”

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