~~Moved from GR: 3 left! I think I'm gonna finish tonight.~~
The Call of Cthulu and Other Weird Stories
by H.P. Lovecraft
Lovecraft has had a tremendous influence on the modern fantasy, especially urban and comic fantasy. Terry Pratchett, Charles Stross, Larry Correia, Jim Butcher, and several other major authors utilize Lovecraftian critters from the dungeon dimensions and the deepest depths as primary antagonists in their mythologies. I don't know if it's because I read the stories when I was too young, or if perhaps I encountered spoofs of his creatures before I read the real thing, but somehow, half-and-half fish/octopus men just aren't a terror trigger for me. I think it has to do with having this as one of my baby-books. Even in his more psychological works, I tend to find Lovecraft's writing a bit overblown, so much so that it tends to invoke laughter rather than horror. Granted, only a few of the antagonists of his stories are amphibious, but they almost always invoke an external influence. My classic horror stories of choice are the more internal/psychological ones-- The Yellow Wallpaper, The Turn of the Screw, etc.
For all that, I have a great appreciation for Lovecraft's ideas and influence. I believe Lovecraft is one of the first authors to consider abstruse topological mathematics as a dangerous art that could cause collisions with extra-dimensional horrors ("Dreams in the Witch-House"). He tends to invoke a theme that knowledge is dangerous ("Call of Cthulhu", "The Festival", "The Silver Key", etc). As he says,
“Science, already oppressive with its shocking revelations, will perhaps be the ultimate exterminator of our human species - if separate species we be - for its reserve of unguessed horrors could never be borne by mortal brains if loosed upon the world.” ("Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family")
Lovecraft also has a tendency to write stories about ordinary people put into extraordinary situations, and while the people are changed by the horrors they encounter, they basically always lose against their inexorable opponents. This sense of depression, the belief that fate is written in stone, tends to add a very unique flavour to his stories. As someone who finds fish-faced fiends funny rather than frightening, I also have him to thank for the ability to read quite a few horror stories without any subsequent terrors or nightmares.
Overall, even if you don't find Dagon and the Deep Ones particularly dreadful or disquieting, Lovecraft is well worth reading for anyone interested in modern fantasy, horror, and fantastical comedy, if only to pick up on the Cthulhu jokes.