MELINDA: Welcome to the 2015 Love Versus Hate debate, brought to you live here on NBS. I’m your moderator, Melinda Doe, broadcasting from a darkened room in an undisclosed location for fear of reprisals. Today’s telecast is brought to you by GesteCo Pharmaceuticals, Kyoto Processed Ricepaper Concerns Press, and viewers like you. Let’s meet our panelists!

[Logos for GesteCo, KPRC Press flash as their names are mentioned.]

MELINDA: For hate, we have Ulgathk the Ever-Living, Elder Lich of the Nine Planes. He’s a sitting member of the Council of Undeath, sole ruler and commander-in-chief of the Unholy Army, and Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs in the Obama Administration.

[The lights rise on ULGATHK THE EVER-LIVING, who is seated in a thoughtful pose with skeletal fingers tented on crossed legs. He is dressed richly in the style of a European monarch, and horrible lights of madness and magic dance in his empty eye sockets.]

ULGATHK: Thank you, Melinda. Your location unto the millimeter is known to me and my legions of deathspitters. I trust you will take this into account with your impartial moderation this evening.

MELINDA: And for love, Bullsick Nomis, Adjudicator Supreme of the Sacred Cabal with orders to root out heresy, punish nonconformity, and share the love among all religions on all the Earths.

[A light shines on ADJUDICATOR NOMIS, who is seated bolt upright. His costume is equal parts cardinal, pope, and pharaoh.]

NOMIS: Pleased to be here, Melinda. There is much heresy to be hugged to death in this vicinity, I can feel it.

MELINDA: Moving back to hatred, Gothmir the Depraved, Wightfather to the swollen risen across the dead spaces between worlds and fresh from his book tour with the Diewalkians.

[Spotlight on GOTHMIR THE DEPRAVED, a most horrible ghoul. He is dressed in the manner of a presidential candidate, with a small flag of the Plane of Reeking Doom on his lapel.]

GOTHMIR: Spoiler alert: they were fabulous. This is largely because they sold their souls to me to become members of my 666 Wailing Consorts upon their death, but there was some natural fabulousness there as well.

MELINDA: For love now, Grand Mufti Al-Temsah, may serenity be upon him. PR to prophets, manager to messiahs, zookeeper for zealots, and spiritual leader to millions of very volatile worshippers across the celestial sphere, His Unquestionableness is the man you want on your side whether you’re starting or just renovating a faith.

[GRAND MUFTI AL-TEMSAH is illuminated. He appears to be dressed in simple black robes with a neatly kept beard until the sheen makes clear that his outfit is woven black gold and his beard is kept in place with rare and extra holy angel tears.]

AL-TEMSAH: I hope we can have a calm and intelligent debate here, full of peace and wisdom. Though I cannot, of course, be held responsible if anyone disagrees with me or interrupts me and therefore leads my followers to completely independently cause Category Five destruction across known existence.

MELINDA: Our last panelist for hatred is of course Nthaeit, Fallen Lord of the Celestials and Archduke of Wights. He’s been in the news recently thanks to his marriage to Archduchess Cthonia, who our viewers know better as socialite Paris Ritchie.

[Illumination reveals the brown and mummified form of ARCHDUKE NTHAEIT, his milky eyes twinkling with malice. He is dressed as a rapper, though close examination shows that all of his bling consists of actual earned noble medals and decorations either from his unfallen days as Celestial Lord Tieahtn or as Archduke of Wights.]

MELINDA: Give us a sneak peek at what your matrimony has been like so far, Your Infernal Grace.

NTHAEIT: We’re just trying to take things day by day, Melinda. We’re still learning about one another as beings, and that’s not without its little annoyances. I’m annoyed when she leaves the toilet seat up, she was annoyed when I sucked the living essence out of her and reduced her to a dessicated husk to sustain myself. It’s a journey, not a destination.

MELINDA: Wonderful. I’m sure we’ll hear more about it when the special airs this March, exclusively on NBS. And now, our final love representative, Dowager Empress Cnhyn Hallud of the Crimson Empire on Alternate Earth. The 19th and final wife of Crimson Emperor Testarossa, she was plucked from obscurity for her beauty before outliving the Emperor by 40 years and counting. Our viewers, of course, know her as a judge on Princess Search here on NBS.

[DOWAGER EMPRESS HALLUD is busily checking her smartphone, and is dressed in the style of the late Elizabeth Taylor. Her leathery hide is tanned and nipped and tucked, and her head is crowned by the Crimson Gem, heirloom to an empire.]

HALLUD: It is beyond fabulous to see you again, Melinda! I’m sure that we can all commune in harmony through the natural vibration of crystals, animated by love from the Cosmic Egg, our joyous songs kept pure through the avoidance of deadly poisons like calories and vaccines.

[The OTHER PANELISTS exchange knowing sideways glances.]

MELINDA: Our first question tonight is for Dowager Empress Hallud for love and Archduke Nthaeit for hate. Do you think that the current planar economy is, as some claim, unfairly favorable to good? This issue has been raised recently by the Occupy Evil movement, who claim that their rights to welsh on debts, commit human sacrifice, and maintain smug senses of superiority are under threat.

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A few years ago, as a fresh young professor straight out of graduate school, I was excited to be arriving at my new job just as we it was hosting a presidential debate. One of my co-workers at my old job had made me promise to get one candidate’s autograph for her if I met him, and I’d made the same promise to my parents for the other.

To my disappointment, though, many of the events were restricted to students, and faculty were not eligible to participate in the raffle for debate tickets. It seemed that my sole memories of the debate would be the traffic snarls, the high-security cordon set up around the performing arts center, and the endless stream of news media personalities talking about the civil rights era as if nothing had happened at the university in the interim.

Then, a stroke of luck: one of my friends, who was a grad student with Health and Nutrition, told me that the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease needed volunteers to work the “Evening with Tom Brokaw” event in late September. The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease might just be the least objectionable, least controversial charity ever—who in their right mind is actually in favor of chronic disease?

Best of all, volunteers would get free tickets to the event if there were any left.

So I donned the provided purple-and-white Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease t-shirt, one size too small, and took up a plastic placard with the Partnership’s URL. I worked the Brokaw line in the muggy dusk, urging anyone who would listen (and many who wouldn’t) to Fight Chronic Disease and flashing the placard for good measure. Most people agreed that there was merit to Fighting Chronic Disease; a few even asked to get involved. All I could do, as a mercenary draftee volunteer, was lamely point them to the URL.

I like to think that peoples’ awareness was piqued, if not about the need to Fight Chronic Disease then at least about what Chronic Disease was (I explained several times the difference between chronic and acute diseases as best a former English major could). And my friends and I were given tickets to see Brokaw, still clad in purple-white and clutching placards. His talk was illuminating, and it was the closest I’d come to seeing someone of importance during the debate. Neither candidate cared to spend more than the minimum time necessary for the debate in town or to waste even one iota of their precious time meeting anyone from the community.

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