Herman Melville Novella 'Benito Cereno' Being Adapted as Sci-Fi Series

Steven Katz - Getty - H 2018
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The Knick and Manhunt: Unabomber veteran Steven Katz is taking Herman Melville where the author has never been before: outer space.

Katz will adapt Melville's 1855 novella Benito Cereno as a sci-fi thriller about a chance encounter between two vessels — a human commercial ship and an alien slave freighter — in deep space. The project is in development at First Look Media's Topic Studios (Spotlight, Roman J. Israel, Esq.) and does not yet have a buyer.

"Benito Cereno is one of Melville’s most thought-provoking short stories, and Steven has been able to retain its essence, while reimagining it for modern audiences," said Lisa Leingang, senior vp programming and content for Topic Studios. "The result will be something so innovative and radical that we can't wait for audiences to see it."

Added Katz, "It’s an incredibly thrilling tale from Melville, a writer we normally think of as being cerebral, although it does plumb his classic themes of good vs. evil and dark vs. light."

Melville's story is set in 1799 and follows the captain of a merchant ship as he comes to the aid of another vessel in distress. He discovers it's a slave ship and that its Spanish captain, Don Benito Cereno, is acting oddly, but he dismisses Cereno's behavior. He later learns the slaves had rebelled and were holding Cereno hostage. The story is known for its use of unreliable narration.

Katz will write Benito Cereno. Topic Studios is executive producing along with Dan Halsted and Corinne Hayoun of Manage-ment.

Katz is repped by CAA, Manage-ment and Sloss Eckhouse.