Pen Names

I never planned on using my legal name for my writing or artwork, or even on any sort of website. I started using the internet when I was 10-11, and like everyone else at that age and time period, I was explicitly told to not give out my personal information, such as my name, age, where I lived, etc. That definitely stuck with me. I don’t use my legal name on any kind of social media.

Despite that, I never even thought of coming up with pen name until 2013. That was the year that I (along with some others in the writing group I was part of at the time) decided to participate in the Day Zero Project, where you try to accomplish 101 things in 1001 days. One of my goals was to create a pen name. The only real limitation I had in mind was that the name had to be androgynous.

“Jay” is an actual name I’ve been using since I was about thirteen, so it made sense as the first name of my pen name. I don’t remember how I chose “Argall”, but it’s apparently a Cornish placename that means “quiet place”.

I’ve been wondering whether or not I want to continue using Jay Argall as a pen name. I came up with it long enough ago that it genuinely feels like my name, but it’s also pretty generic-looking. If I want to actually start trying to publish my work and not just post things on my website, I might want to use a name that’s more recognizable.

There is another name, Li Zhilong (李紙龍), that I’ve been using for longer than my pen name. The hanzi in Zhilong mean “paper dragon” (and it’s also a rough Sinification of my actual last name, while Li is my actual middle name, just spelled slightly differently), which is why this blog is named “Thoughts of a Paper Dragon”. Using Li Zhilong as a pen name would make plenty of sense. And I’m already using Zhilong or some variant of it for various art things online.

However…there is something else that has started to bother me recently about Li Zhilong. It’s the Mandarin pronunciation/pinyin spelling, and I come from a family that speaks Minnan – Taiwanese Hokkien, specifically. Then I’d have to choose whether I want to use the POJ romanization or the Tâi-lô romanization (Li Choaleng vs Li Tsualing). So I’m not sure I want to use that name for my writing.

If you’re using a pen name, I have two questions:

  • How did you choose your name?
  • Why did you decide to use a pen name?

Sunset Overlooking the Sea


This is actually a (sort of) remake of something I drew last year:

Overlooking the Sea, finished 18 April 2020

The two paintings have a tree, a sea, and the two suns in common, but that’s about it. I didn’t want to do an exact remake because that would be boring, and I wanted a more sunset-y color palette. I also learned how to make more realistic-looking clouds in the past year.

The second image (the original) was drawn at 11″x17″ because I had every intention of selling it as a print. That didn’t happen, but I am actually selling the new version as a print on Redbubble.

In further art-related news, I’ve also made an Instagram account: @zhilongart. My art gets posted there as I finish it, and I’ve been posting old artwork there too!

Recommendations: March 2021


Boiled Bones and Black Eggs by Nghi Vo (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

Burn the Ships by Alberto Yáñez (Lightspeed Magazine)

The Guadalupe Witch by Josh Rountree (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

Homecoming is Just Another Word for the Sublimation of the Self by Isabel J. Kim (Clarkesworld)

Olivia’s Table by Alyssa Wong (Lightspeed Magazine)

The Orbiting Guan Erye by Wang Zhenzhen, translated by Carmen Yiling Yan (Clarkesworld)

Terra Rasa by Anastasia Bookreyeva, translated by Ray Nayler (Clarkesworld)


Institutions are the AIs Your Mother Warned You About by Navarre Bartz (SFWA)

Seduced by the Ruler’s Gaze: An Indian Perspective on Seth Dickinson’s Masquerade by Sid Jain (Uncanny Magazine)

“We’ll Know It When We See It”: The Trouble with Finding (Alien) Life by Julie Nováková (Clarkesworld)


Lingthusiasm #54: How linguists figure out the grammar of a language

Video Games

Cat Quest (The Gentlebros Studio) (review here)

Camp NaNo April Plans

It took me quite a while to figure out what I actually wanted to during this April’s Camp NaNo session. This is what I’ve come up with:

Finish writing The Illuminated World. This is a story I started in November 2019 and set aside because it wasn’t working. I’ve changed the plot massively and now it seems like something I can actually finish. I thought about making it a comic and even thumbnailed the first chapter and drew a few pages, but I think it’s going to function best as a short story/novella.

Finish outlining Venére Magic. After thinking it over for weeks, I think I know how to fix this story. I should be able to do all the required plotting, worldbuilding, & outlining during April.

Work on some proper documentation for a couple of conlangs. In January I decided to finally organize the information for all of my conlangs. I’ve only completed this for two conlangs so far.

Write some blog posts. Yep, I’m gonna count my blog post drafts toward my Camp NaNo goal, because why not? I have a lot of blog posts to write this year.

Are you participating in Camp NaNo this month? I’d love to hear what you’re doing.