Imagine if you will that you are a noted science fiction writer named Connie Willis. You are teaching at the Clarion workshop for science fiction writers. On your way out of class one of your female students stops you and begs for a few ibuprophen.
You know that look. You’ve seen it before. It comes only once a month, a natural cycle which reminds you that each and every multiple orgasm comes at a price. That time when ibuprophen becomes more than a mere drug, but the only thing standing between you and suicidal depression or maniacal rage. Had ibuprophen been invented in Lizzie Borden's time, she might not have become famous.
So you hand over the pills and bond over a few menstrual stories, and it becomes clear that really there is only one universal women’s issue.
Then a few months later you find yourself on a panel at Wiscon, a science fiction convention with a strong feminist focus. Science fiction fandom produces a few cranks, but you find yourself on a panel in front of a roomful of women. Then one of the panelists stands up and suggest that menstruation has been suppressed by the patriarchy.
And they all nod together.
Emboldened by such a warm reception, the speaker moves onward. She suggests that rather than suffering women should take pride in their natural cycles, reveling in this reminder of something so uniquely female.
Everyone nods again in perfect unison.
Then finally the same speaker cries out: “We should wear red armbands announcing our periods!”
And the whole house comes down. And you find yourself wondering if any of these people have ever spent a weekend clutching a hot water bottle between their thighs.
Amidst this madness, Connie Willis got an idea for the ultimate period piece. Imagine a society where someone, possibly male, has invented a method to eliminate menstruation. No more tampons. No more pads. No more midol. No more cramps. Just one simple treatment and the last week of the month is exactly like the first three. Women are free to be themselves. Husbands don’t have to walk on eggshells so often. But women remain women and when daughter decides to join “The Cyclists” the women of the family must band together in catty unity to bring their own back into the light.
First published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine in April 1992, "Even the Queen" earned Connie Willis both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best short story, the very same year she also won for the masterful Doomsday Book. "Even the Queen" remains in print today, as part of her short story collection Impossible Things, and was adapted for radio by Harlan Ellison and Science Fiction Radio Theater of the Air.
Tape your ribs and read it. And don’t spare the ibuprophen.