WITH the sudden death of Chris Boyce, a research librarian on The Herald since 1981, is lost not only one of the true characters of the Scottish press but one of the dwindling ranks of Scotland's finest ornament, its largely self-educated working-class intelligentsia - a man whose diverse talents and expertises included librarianship, astronomy, science fiction, journalism, and the rendition on his front teeth of a very passable arrangement of Rossini's William Tell overture.

Born to Irish immigrant parents in 1944 and brought up by his father in Baillieston, Glasgow, after his mother's early death, Chris joined the Glasgow municipal library service and went to work in the technical section of the Mitchell Library, where he, growing up in those exciting days of the early space race and the ''white heat of technology'', became as keen a consumer of scientific knowledge as a provider. This was the background that nourished the writing of his two science-fiction novels Catchworld (1974, joint winner of the Victor Gollancz/Sunday Times SF prize) and Brainfix (1978) - both of which were what are called ''hard'' science fiction, meaning that the science in them is as important as the fiction.

His allied interest in science fact had led Chris to join Astra (the Association in Scotland to Research into Astronautics) in 1963 - he remained an active member all the rest of his life - and in 1979 he published Extraterrestrial Encounters, a scientifically informed speculation on what the creatures and civilisations of outer space might turn out to be like in the event that we should ever meet them. At the time of his death he had been working on a sequel to this book that would have taken account of the scientific developments and explorations of the intervening 20 years.

Chris was also a prominent figure on the wider Scottish literary scene, and in the 1980s and 1990s his family home in Glasgow became something of a salon - or saloon, as he might have preferred to call it - for the generation of Scottish writers of whom Alasdair Gray is the best known. In 1991, along with Gray, he and his wife Angela founded a new Scottish publishing house, Dog and Bone, which after some success with Chris's own Scottish political thriller Blooding Mr Naylor (always, it seems, on the brink of being filmed) and Gray's novel McGrotty and Ludmilla, fell victim to the book trade's then tendency to assume that books on Scottish subjects from Scottish publishers can be of interest only in Scotland.

In his person and his personality Chris was a large, amiable, and shaggy man, hairy like Esau rather than smooth like Jacob. His kindness was proverbial and his penchant for whimsical fun a delight to all those who worked with him; both these facets were combined many years ago in a benignly anarchistic prank on the day he left a temporary counter clerk's job in a Glasgow Post Office to take up his first newspaper post at the Daily Record; on that day Chris unilaterally decided to double all state pensions and benefits. Not one customer complained. Neither was he above a little gentle leg-pulling of seekers after knowledge: a member of the public who telephoned the Record to find out whether or not budgies have ears was gravely informed: ''No, madam; they whistle only to clear their throats.''

It is feared by collectors of Glasgow lore that with Chris has died all knowledge of the long and gloriously silly comic recitation The Wildest Man I Know, which Chris learned from his father Peter. Those who heard it were too busy laughing to try to retain it; even Chris could remember it properly only in his cups - and Chris had given up drinking around 10 years ago. Now the wildest man that many of us knew is just as lost to us; but he will not be so soon forgotten.

Chris Boyce is survived by his wife Angela Mullane, noted solicitor and bonnie fechter, and by their teenage daughters Petra and Toni.