As I've mentioned previously, I'm making an effort to read gay fiction at present. For this reason, I've spent a good deal of time reading about and exploring the internet for direction as to which books I should be reading in this short period of narrowed focus. Finding a definitive list of significant pieces of gay fiction has proved a significant challenge.
If you google "best gay fiction", you'll find goodreads and afterelton at the top of the results. These are both democratic mob-rule type lists and they're helpful to an extent but if you're like me, by the time you get to the tail end of each you start the doubt the total credibility. I don't know a thing about Faith and Fidelity by Tere Michaels or A Better Place by Mark A. Roeder but if we were to judge books by their cover... they don't look like the kind of books that belong on any "best of" fiction list.
Conversely, you can find lists like the one compiled by Publishing Triangle which includes works such as To Kill A Mockingbird, Moby Dick, and Little Women among the ranks of the best gay fiction, and although I haven't read all of these, their inclusion seems to be the result of great exaggeration or radical readings.
Ultimately for my own purposes I've had to come to a decision as to what I felt was or could included among the ranks of the best gay fiction. This is how I have come to define gay fiction: Fiction written by a LGBT author, fiction concerned with gay themes or subjects, and/or ideally, a work of fiction with a LGBT central/major character whose sexuality is in some minor or major way an element of the composition.
I think this definition gives the niche the breadth it's due without being absurd about what's inclusive. I think it would be a great thing to see a list, considerate of historical and influential importance, assembled of the legitimate best gay fiction.
If the world is waiting on me to do it they'll be waiting awhile. I have far too much reading to do.