Using my Degree

I must admit to a certain amount of professional jealousy when I learn that another writer, published or not, has a degree in English, or Literature, or something that is directly related to the story crafting we both do.  My degree is in Architecture.

When I was in grade school, I was constantly wavering between wanting to be an author (I never used the term “writer”, it was always “author”) or an architect.  I loved words and writing, and I was good at it.  But I was also good at drafting and geometry and I loved designing fantastic buildings!  By High School, the practical side of me won out.  Being an “author” was akin to being an actress… it sounds like fun, if you can actually make a living at it.  Just don’t quit your day job.  So, I went to Vermont Technical College and earned my degree in Architectural Engineering Technology.

Having taken several detours in life, I didn’t earn that degree till I was well into my thirties.  And instead of being a CAD monkey, doing drawings for a real architect till I had a further degree and several other requirements, I used my degree to teach computers to the incoming Freshmen.  I loved teaching, and I only left it when I gave birth to my second child.

So how am I using my degree now?  Well, just as Sara Creasy adds a strong biological aspect to her novels, and Glenn Smith writes about a future military, my architectural love and training shows itself in my own novels.  Sometimes it is as simple as drawing a house plan so I can keep track of whether I said a character threw a rock at a bedroom window from the front yard or back.  Sometimes it is much more involved, and I describe a building that is not possible with today’s technology.

In The Scar (the second Kingdom Come novel), there is a need for temporary housing to be built quickly.  The equivalent of the Army Corps of Engineers comes in, and uses machines that inflate huge resin bubbles that harden into a translucent, strong structure that can be easily altered and modified.  The idea began out of my fascination with Monolithic Concrete Domes, but I made the futuristic process much simpler.  For the biggest domes, a large machine pumps just the right balance of liquid resin and air onto a prepared foundation.  High winds can cause problems, but otherwise the engineer simply gets the dome to the right size, then waits for it to harden.  In The Scar, the architects and engineers added three levels of “subbles” (I love making up words!  That’s why I write SyFy)  These were all attached after the larger dome was hardened, and then openings were cut and interior walls and utilities and everything else necessary for habitation were constructed.  But the initial structure was up in less than a day. 


I love building models almost as much as I love designing fanciful structures.  Sometimes, I get very detailed, and work exactly to a specific scale.  But sometimes I just put together a simple representation to get the basic idea across.

I made this in just about an hour, after a trip to the local craft store.  The hot glue is messy, and I did nothing to disguise the holes in the beads, but it is a good representation of the building.
I would love to see someone who is better at CAD than I input this into a 3D program!  This dome is three stories.  The bottom subbles are bermed, and mostly below grade.  Two of the bottom subbles connect via tunnels to neighboring domes.  The entrance is on the second level.  Residents can then go around the second level balcony to their own subble, or up to the third level balcony, or down to the large common area.
So, I am using my degree!  I am designing buildings, just like I always wanted to.  It is almost as fulfilling seeing my creations come to life in these stories as it would be seeing them erected in real life.  In some ways, it is more fulfilling, as I find it much more fun to extrapolate the current state of architecture and create buildings that are, for now, impossible.
But not for long.

About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
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2 Responses to Using my Degree

  1. Sara Creasy says:

    I love those monolithic concrete domes too! One of the projects I’m working on – if it ever gets finished – is about the building of a giant dome. I could use an architecture degree…

    • Our dream house would be a big concrete dome! I’ve made various models of that too.

      I can’t wait to read about your giant dome! The nice thing about science fiction is that your technology doesn’t have to be possible, just plausible, and sometimes not even that!

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