Commodore 64

My ‘Commodore 64’ and ‘Arena 13’.

‘Arena 13’ started with my Commodore 64 computer and a language called ‘FORTH’.

The photo is of the Commodore 64 which was my first ever computer. I bought it in 1983 or 1984 (can’t quite remember the exact date!). I played games on it and started to dabble in programming (coding). First I used ‘BASIC’ and then I found a computer language that I really loved called ‘FORTH’. I liked it because you could name your own words and place them in the coding dictionary.

In those days I was trying to write Science Fiction and always trying to come up with ideas. I found out that FORTH was used by some astronomers to control radio telescopes. So I wondered if it could be used to control androids. So I came up with the idea of ‘lacs’ (simulacra) that would fight in an arena alongside humans. You would win a contest by cutting the flesh of your human opponent. But lacs would be fully armoured. The only way you could defeat a lac was to place your blade in a socket in its throat. That would call the word ‘endoff’ and the lac would fall and be out of the contest.

I wrote the first draft of the story on paper and forgot all about it. Then in 1991 when I was hoping to become a computer programmer (rather than a teacher) I decided that my typing speed was too slow. In order the get fast fingers I decided to type in the whole of that book as an exercise. I did but, in the process of doing so, I decided that I’d rather be a writer than a programmer.

When I finished typing it in I sent it off to three potential agents. Only one replied but on the basis of that book Carolyn Whitaker of ‘London Independent Books’ took me on and, after years of effort and rejections (over 90), got me published in 2004.

The book that finally got me into print was ‘The Spook’s Apprentice’. But the book I typed into my word processor (trying to get fast fingers) back in the 1991 was eventually to become ‘Arena 13’.

So it all started with my Commodore 64 and a language called ‘FORTH’.

The second book in the series, ‘Arena 13: The Prey’ is available now.

In the background is a picture of a ginger cat. That was our family pet and it became the inspiration for Kratch, the cat boggart, who makes the Spook’s breakfast and now, in later books, fights alongside Tom Ward.

Joseph Delaney

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