As one of the dominant C20th & C21st entertainment forms, the cinema remains a central focus of this journal. However, the cinema has also had many competitors – especially in more recent times. Computer and console games, comic books, the internet, music, theme parks and their attractions – all have their own role to play in the history of entertainment media. Likewise, entertainment media did not come into being with the emergence of the cinema in the late C19th. Optical and audio media technologies – magic lanterns, phantasmagoria, panoramas, dioramas, automata – have a rich history in entertaining audiences with their audio-visual modes of expression. Like the multiple rays of light refracted from the materiality of a single lens, entertainment media share common concerns with respect to the audiences they address.

Each creates its own illuminations and variations.These variations may be refractions resulting from media historicity: magic lanterns, zoetropes, automata – all had their own histories and functions, yet their forms (along with others) impacted on early film technology which, in turn, developed its own identity, one that continued to transform as it approached the C21st, particularly as it embraced digital technology. Likewise, current entertainment may share a franchise icon – Batman, Spiderman, James Bond, Astro Boy… But, like lenses, these iconic figures create alternative audience experiences as they disperse and transform in the context of alternate media – films, comic books, animated cartoons, computer games. And so it continues. Their materiality aside, entertainment media also possess a refractory nature: they are often obstinate, stubborn, wayward, perverse, and disobedient, refusing to be pinned down by critical responses that seek to homogenize their nature.

Refractory: a Journal of Entertainment Media reflects on these and many other aspects of entertainment experiences, and seeks to explore the fun and, often, serious dimensions to their form.