Hi! My name is McKinley, I'm a neurodivergent writer based in Melbourne, Australia.
I'm also a freelance copywriter and editor (primarily government/corporate), a content writer, and a writing coach (both 1:1 and in workshops) – all that's over at mckinleyvalentine.com or you can get in touch.
The Whippet is not really about me, but in case you’re interested, here’s some things I like:
- Fantasy & scifi books
- Board games that take like 10 hours
- Bad coffee
- Hungarian food
- Index cards
- Movies with a lot of tense hiding and escapes, Fugitive-style.
I'm on twitter at @mckinleaf
An origin story (The Whippet's, not mine)
I began The Whippet at the beginning of 2017. Substack didn't exist, and most people still thought of a "newsletter" as the kind of thing companies send internally with A Message From Our CEO.
The media in 2017 talked about literally only two topics: Brexit and Donald Trump. Even completely unrelated topics would loop them in ("How the works of Jane Austen predicted Brexit").
There were feelgood websites that avoided this, but they were like, "breaking: otters holding hands". With respect to the otters, it didn't fill the gap: I still wanted intellectually engaging stuff, just not repetitive and depressing.
Meanwhile: The Cambridge-Analytica scandal hadn't broken yet, but it was becoming increasingly clear that Facebook was not a force for good in the world, or individual people's lives.
I was posting what you might call proto-Whippet stuff to Facebook, long paragraphs about the things that sparked my curiosity, and people started sending me messages saying "your posts are the only reason I stay on Facebook."
I mean that's not something you'd feel good about, right?
So I figured a newsletter would be a good way to keep writing this stuff, without making anyone use a particular platform.
What about the name though, do you own a whippet?
I do not! Whippets are a good kind of dog, but the name is largely (entirely) based on vibes, I'm afraid. I wanted something that felt quick and light, neither too earnest nor too goofy. (That is kind of the newsletter's deal: it's got jokes, but also I mean it.)
I brainstormed titles with friends – credit for the final choice goes to my friend Fraser, who does research into cemetery tech and death in videogames. The only other strong contender was "The Respite".
This is too much information, isn't it?
What do you mean by “0% contemporary politics”?
Frankly, when someone says they want “no politics”, it’s a bit of a red flag. It often means “I like the status quo, and I don’t like hearing about the people it hurts” or possibly just “I get very upset when movies have black women in them.”
So I wanted to explain myself.
I am not apolitical. I care enormously about the best way to structure society so that as many people as possible have health, happiness, education, justice and so on – which is what “politics” means.
(I do not care about party-level infighting and gotcha moments, politics as a sport, politics as a soap opera,* the 24/7 news cycle.
* I say ‘contemporary’ because I absolutely will include gossipy soap opera politics if it’s from Ancient Egypt.)
Much of what saturates the news cycle is a trivial sideshow, but not all of it. As I write this, the media saturation topic is Russia’s impending invasion of Ukraine. Not trivial!
But I won’t be talking about it in The Whippet:
- If you want to know about a situation that is saturating the news, you will not struggle to find that information.
- I am not the best person to provide that information anyway.
- Not only is it very easy to find out political news, it's almost impossible to avoid a constant stream of it, much of which is heartbreaking.
- Sometimes you probably need to get your heart broken. Knowing about injustice is important. But you don't need to have your heart broken constantly, at all times, by every writer. You're allowed to not think about it for the ten minutes it takes to read The Whippet.
Lastly, and importantly: I don't like 'good news' websites that try to show the silver lining of a corrupt medical system, or the shiny new tech solution that a fossil fuel company's PR department is saying will stop the climate crisis. I'm not obligated to talk about the terrible things in the world, but if I talk about them, I'm obligated to be honest.
What other newsletters do you recommend?
I'm so glad you asked.
I've tried to include ones that don't have a mass audience – the hidden gems that you won't find on everyone else's recommendation lists.
Jack Druce’s Big & Cool newsletter
A Melbourne comedian with a heart of gold. Hilarious jokes + genuinely insightful introspection.
Leah Ginnivan’s Newsletter
Leah is a med student (now resident?) in the Top End, the tropics and thunderstorms and sugarcane part of Australia. Her newsletter only comes out a few times a year, but it’s always worth it: literary and self-aware stories of practising medicine in remote communities.
Book Riot SFF
News and recommendations for fantasy & science fiction books.
Small Town Grievances
The minutes of a fictional town hall meeting from a very weird town. Parks & Rec meets Welcome to Night Vale.
Today in Tabs
Today in Tabs is a very visible gem but it's so good I had to include it anyway. Here's Rusty's description:
Every civilized weekday (i.e. Mon-Thu), Today in Tabs contains a lot of internet, compressed as tightly as I can get it. Links to whatever I read in the last day or so that I loved or hated, updates on the ongoing media fiasco of the moment, #newsbiz gossip, a bit of tech criticism, opaque jokes, running bits, and at least one musical number.
“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”
— Ellen Parr