While clearing my files, I found the text below from [Re: to [Now]]. I haven't edited it.
It's part of an e-mail chat between myself and Lawrence Miles, back when "The Brakespeare Voyage" was first being formulated just after TBOTW:
[Caution some notional spoilers by implication]
Re: A slightly mad proposal...
This story is, as you've described it, about a cluster of universes linked by a single theme. It's alarmingly close to the same territory.
…quite, delete all reference to parallels. Accepted as given..
The second problem is more fundamental. The trouble is that you've got a plot - indeed, a central concept - which demands something incredibly dynamic, but a lot of it seems to be set in an environment that's very very static. Which is to say: this is a story about a bunch of supercharged universes hurtling through un-space towards the screaming mouth at the beginning of time (not 100% accurate, I know, I'm just pointing out the potential drama of the situation), but you seem to be pitching it as a relatively low-key "investigation" novel. The Victorian-style characters delve into the centre of their world, while the twenty-first century characters do some careful research, and together they discover that they're actually inside one of these hurtling universes. The material about Scarratt comes across as back-story, not the thing that's driving the plot. This is reasonable, from a rational point of view - there's no reason that people in a hurtling universe *should* realise they're hurtling, obviously - but aesthetically it's a non-starter.
…I’ve already been thinking about that, since writing and I came up with the following: 1) As a leviathon is forced into the Maw, bits of its own future break off and are impacted back against its own time-line. Thus a huge chunk of 1940s NY might suddenly ‘fall’ into the 1880s mid western plains, dead (always dead) characters from the future are found their bodies horribly crushed and distorted, their wallets full of money that hasn’t been printed yet.
In short, let the book be a HUGE temporal DISASTER MOVIE, in which time is being broken down as the world(s) within the Leviathon(s) are driven back into creation.
The culture within the Leviathon(s) should be always looking forward to some portented disaster on the horizon. These ‘impact’ events are very obvious THINGS THAT SHOULD NOT HAPPEN, and one which will galvanise the intra-Leviathon characters considerably. However (and I accept this almost brings us back to parallels, and that this could be a weakness) it relies on the history of the intra-Leviathon world(s) bearing some relation to our Earth’s or the impact will be less.
2) The ‘stress’ on a Leviathon being driven ‘up-stream’ as it where, is such that everything happening within it will be highly volitile, not unlike a ‘supercharging’ of history. So (despite what I just said in 1) the history will be different because its ‘hotter’ and ‘quicker’ than ours. In short, if Warlords Of Utopia provided a take on the classic parallel history for FP, this book would provide a take on ‘steam-punk’ : where the divergance is not x battle was fought differently, but x invention happened earlier.
3) A sub-effect of 2) but it is likely that the ‘stress’ will attempt to create within each Leviathon a counterforce capable of breaking the control being exerted by Scarratt’s whalers. I intend to use the Order Of The White Peacock as the intra-Leviathon model for this, and mirror them with one of the Great Houses that is in opposition to Scarratt without.
Much as you've tried to underline the "it's about inward-looking cultures" theme, the Hollow Earth idea doesn't really seem to gel with the Big Story, i.e. Scarratt's attempts to fly into the Maw. But it strikes me… do you remember, a while ago, we briefly discussed the idea of a story that was like MOBY DICK with Leviathans? We never really went into detail, but you can see the appeal: teams of "whalers" from the Great Houses, penetrating the Leviathans' universe-sized bodies and stripping them down for materials, specifically materials that can't normally be manufactured in the "normal" universe. Suppose you exchange the JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH imagery in this story for MOBY DICK? It's still suitably nineteenth-century, but suggests exactly the kind of sea-going, storm-ridden sense of movement that's implicit in your Scarratt idea. Everything seems to fall into place. Rather than using the seeds of new universes, Scarratt engineers some infant Leviathans (as in THE BOOK OF THE WAR), and steers them towards the Maw.
…this was actually what I always had in mind (the hi-jacking of the birthing cycle of universes) when I was writing TBOTW entries.
We might speculate that Scarratt himself has a small "whaling universe" from which to guide them, and that each Leviathan might be used in the book as an environment in itself, occupied by whatever characters might be necessary. Apart from anything else, this fills in one of the blanks of the story as it stands: right now you have no counter-force, no "menace" to balance out Scarratt. This version allows you to bring in a Moby Dick to his Ahab. However you want to interpret that… - LM.
…See above for counterforces within.
[Now] So as always, I want to acknowledge my debt of gratitude to Lawrence who so cogently above steered what might have been quite different towards the novel I actually commenced writing.