Who is the Varok Mahntik?
Who is Mahntik, the antagonist in The Webs of Varok? As an author I had to ask myself this question. Then my editor came along and questioned every word she spoke, every scheme she devised, every head she turned. So I checked out her motivations and her interactions with people, that she talks to varokian students in a manner unlike the way she talks to ahlork. Okay. She causes a lot of trouble in the story, but she shares an outlook with many of us, is ambitious like most of us, and has a few qualities we all admire – beauty, energy, intelligence.
Is she really frightened by the thought of an Earth ship coming to Varok? Or is she lying about that, too? True, she doesn't like humans, especially when they have "trapped" the varok she admires most. Maybe that's it. She's lonely. Is that hard to believe? Varokian males find her attractive, but she isn't easily satisfied.
Perhaps all she wants is to grow her business? Isn't that all right? Is it okay that bottom-line needs drive most of her decisions… or do they?
Not for Mahntik. It's power she wants.
However, she does have a soft spot for her favorite egg-layers – the ilara. She worries that they might not have enough to eat. A complicated lady, this one.
Maybe her dilemma is very close to one we all share. Her ancestors had a life that seemed far more elegant than hers; why shouldn't she live as well as they did? She represents to me our basic drive to enrich our lives, but she is fooled into thinking that wealth consists of acquiring beautiful things, comforts and conveniences – even at the expense of integrity, enriched time, and friends.
—Cary Neeper, 2013