Young Zaphod Plays it Safe is a novella by Douglas Adams set in his The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy universe. It doesn't appear as a standalone work but is included with several collections. It first appeared in The Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Christmas Book which Adams also co-edited.
The story is a prequel to the events in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy and has the young Zaphod Beeblebrox working as a salvage ship operator. He guides some bureaucrats to a crashed spaceship which may be leaking some hazardous materials, including the incredibly dangerous aorist rods, and those aren't even the worst things. The bureaucrats are determined to "make it safe."
The comic asides in the story include some of the time travel paradoxes which are a common running theme in Adams' SF work. The story also contains references to Sirius Cybernetics Corporation and Sector ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, which also feature heavily in the Hitchhiker's stories.
- The Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Christmas Book (1986)
- The Salmon of Doubt (UK editions)
- The Hitchhiker's Guide Omnibus (US editions)
- The events in the book are set before Zaphod blocked off sections of his own brain for the presidency, and as such readers are able to have a glimpse at his original personality. His general speech patterns and personality are much the same, but he seems to have moral views and is more likely to go off on life-threatening and exciting quests for the greater good.
- Though not specifically stated, one of the dangerous creations which escaped to where Earth was located was implied by Adams to be then-President Ronald Reagan, a reflection of his critical views of Reagan's policies which also surface in Mostly Harmless. The version of the story included in The Salmon of Doubt makes this explicit.